He mainly provides his cultivation advise from a remote distance and most of the growers he advises do their growing in the Netherlands or Belgium. Last weekend, however, Gilbert Heijens was in China. Not on holiday, but to visit a large project in China which he advises on behalf of Horti-Consult International. In the 20-hectare Chinese greenhouse with plans to expand to 40 hectares, a wide variety of fruit vegetables are cultivated, among which snack bell peppers.
“This is a completely new project in the middle of China in the Zhangye region”, Gilbert says. “They don’t have much greenhouse horticulture in that area yet. The greenhouse in question is placed in a solitary location and is very modern and advanced. Truly a high-class greenhouse the likes of which you won't see around here much. Together with the local growers, I am trying to get the most out of the cultivation for high-end products.”
Chinese growers work many hours
Gilbert has been active in China for about three years now that the greenhouse horticulture is on the rise there. “Just like in Russia, a lot is invested in large projects of 10 hectares or more. The greenhouses and the infrastructure are overall in great condition, but there is still a lack of knowledge in regards to cultivation. Which is something I try to provide the growers, which are mainly young and studious Chinese people, with. They want to move forward, and although the tempo in which they improve is lower than it is in the Netherlands, they do work more hours. They are very grateful people to work with.”
Visiting in person
It is evident that, because for example the traveling costs, it's best to give most of the advice from a remote distance instead of going there to do it in person. “I talk to all of the growers I advise once a week and try to visit the projects in person once or twice a year, or more if the project requires. However, I now notice, more sporadic than before, that guidance from a distance is better from a hygiene perspective. Then the advise given to local growers from a distance, also won't become a problem, of course.”
In the foreseeable future, Gilbert will be active closer to home, but in November another trip to China is waiting for him. “Yeah, that’s when we take our annual trip to an unknown greenhouse horticulture area. Although this year it won't be that ‘unknown’ to me. But it always is enjoyable and an educational trip, just like last year’s trip to Guatemala.”
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