A moment of celebration for the team of Spanish greenhouse grower Looije. This week they officially opened their brand new greenhouse in Águilas. And it's nowhere near the end: in the coming years they want to build another two phases, up to a total of 19 hectares.
Looije OPFH brings together twelve associated growers in the area surrounding Águilas, a municipality between Almería and Murcia. It is a kind of cooperative, Vincent Looije explained earlier. "The goal is to grow high-quality cherry tomatoes. The important thing then is the taste and not so much the amount. By working together, we get it."
Although the founders of Looije are a family from the Netherlands, who came to Spain looking for the sun, the company from Águilas operates completely independently of its Dutch parent company.
Now they have expanded their facilities and the official opening and first harvest were celebrated together this week. The opening was attended by Juan Marin Bravo, president of Proexport, of which Looije is a member. He said he's very proud of the company and the investments they make and called it an example for the future.
It is indeed a serious investment we're talking about. Looije bought a plot of land in the area of 27 hectares in January last year. The new 5.2 hectare facility, built by the Murcia-based company Novagric, will reuse collected rainwater and reuse the irrigation water completely. The facility is equipped with climate control systems and extensive ways to control the irrigation and the water in the soil. Also a 21,000 m3 basin is realized.
"The future of agriculture depends on making the most of every cubic meter and drop of water, and as farmers we are aware of the water needs of our region. That is why we have invested to make the most of 100% of the drainage and rain water", said general manager of OP Looije, Juan José López.
"With our way of cultivating we are between Holland and Spain. We use different types of screens, such as Luxous, to save energy and increase the night temperature. Climate control is the key to a uniform growing environment, especially at night we don't want a big temperature drop, so we also turn on the heating, and we also use CO2 and grow on substrates", as Vincent showed earlier.
Integrated Pest Management
Furthermore, from 2020, the area will also have a niche of auxiliary fauna thanks to an outdoor garden that will attract natural predators of pests that affect tomatoes. Also, in order to facilitate the work of the laborers, technological supports have been implemented for the adjudication of the tasks in the greenhouse, helping workers to make the job as easy as possible. Also in the facilities the workers have been put in the spotlight: the cafeteria and changing rooms are all equipped with air conditioning, places to relax and to take comfortable breaks.
The greenhouse is completely filled with cherry tomatoes. Ever since Looije started its activity in Murcia in 1998, they've specialized in growing this crop. "We want to be specialists in this speciality. Our production of 7 million kilos of cherry tomatoes currently reaches 14 European countries and we intend to expand our production to 12 million kilos in the next few years", Juan shared. Last year they already inaugurated their new warehouse in the Industrial Estate 'El Labradorcico' of Águilas, for whose construction they invested 4.8 million Euro.
And it's nowhere near the end. The next two phases are planned already. The second phase is planned for 2021- and the third, in 2023, will complete the cultivable surface until reaching a total of over 19 ha - resulting in a total investment over 11 million Euro.
"We have made a greenhouse so that the crop and the people are better. It is our responsibility as a company to create the perfect circumstances for the plants and the people", he affirmed. "We think this is the future of agriculture, both in Murcia and in the rest of Spain: make the most of every square meter and every drop of water and get the best possible quality from it all in tomatoes."