Here's a riddle. It comes from a white mushroom nursery and can be found in the local supermarket of Kerkdriel since last week. What could this be? Hint: they are not white mushrooms. Another hint: it grows under pink growing lights, in a cultivation setting with multiple layers. Can you guess it?
Maybe you can (particularly with the pictures), because in November last year, the innovative cultivation project of Berjelle van Namen in the mushroom nursery of his father Johan in Hoenzadriel had already been introduced. In a cell which was previously used for mushrooms, Berjelle is now growing herbs and micro-vegetables.
Before he was there part time next to his studies, but he has since finished those, so now he can be found in the pink cell all the time to optimize cultivation using LEDs.
To increase sales of his product to those outside of the known customers from the mushroom trade, he had to wait for the right packaging. Berjelle: "You do want to distinguish yourself in presentation." He does so under the brand name of Pika Surprisa, herbal surprises in Esperanto. "The packaging was received a month ago, making the step to the shelves possible."
Seventeen kinds of herbs in greenhouse for 'extra appeal'
The presentation is all right. The local supermarket Boon's Market in Kerkdriel was expanding, including realization of a fresh market. This market has, since the opening Thursday last week, a greenhouse. "That greenhouse, with a special lamp for cultivation in this special setting, completely finishes the presentation together with the packaging. It gives the supermarket extra appeal, and the product is extra fresh and tasty in this way."
This set-up, with seventeen kinds of herbs, receives a lot of attention, Berjelle happily notices. "So far, I went to check every day, and you can see the shelves need to be replenished. A good sign. The intense herbal taste, in combination with the sustainable way of growing, is very much appreciated, I hear. If it turns out to be a success, we can see if we can offer the herbs, with or without greenhouse, can be offered for sale in other branches."
Warm and cold cell
Berjelle is prepared for a possible increase in production. In November, he already let know he was looking to expand the cultivation with a second cell. This cell is as good as finished by now. "Only the lamps have to be ordered and installed. With a second cell, I can grow in a cold and warm cell in the future, to further optimize cultivation. Ideally, you switch to one cell per herb, for optimal, but also sustainable cultivation. That is what vertical farming stands for. But for now, this is science fiction to me."
Launching their own website, however, is not science fiction, and will go online later this summer.
For more information:
Van Namen Specialties
Berjelle van Namen