Godfrey Dol in Kazakhstan

Cultivation with 83 degrees difference between summer and winter

The challenges of growing in Kazakhstan? "It starts with the climate," Godfrey Dol tells us. "In winter, it can be -45°C, and in summer +38°C." Godfrey, of the Dutch company Glasshouse Consultancy, talks about his newest project in Kazakhstan at QAZ Tomat.

Greenhouse climate
Godfrey has spent a lot of time abroad, in very hot countries as well as very cold ones. He has developed his own philosophy there. "In the Netherlands, people usually use the ventilation temperature. I.e. if the temperature is set to 25 degrees, the windows will open at 25 degrees. The humidity isn't always taken into consideration."

In Kazakhstan, that is not possible, you have to check the humidity there. If the windows are open too often, way too much humidity is lost. Every plant has a cooling effect in the greenhouse, and when the window opens, this cooling effect is lost. 

"You can compare it to air conditioning," explains Godfrey. "When you turn on the AC in a room, you shouldn't also open windows and doors, because then it doesn't work anymore. That's the case in a greenhouse as well. You need the air exchange to get rid of redundant humidity, but you can 'play' with it." It's important to find the 'sweet spot' where the best balance of temperature, humidity, CO2 and radiation is reached.

Photosynthesis works best at around 30°. When maintaining this hot climate, windows can stay closed more and there is more CO2, which increases the photosynthesis even further. 30° is the limit for bees however, beyond that they can't do their work as well anymore. "There are limits, that shouldn't be crossed." In winter, the windows close completely. This season has its own challenges, like melting ice off of the roof and keeping the greenhouse warm. 

Godfried is used to the cold to some point!

In horticulture, labour is the most important cost. Labour is very cheap in Kazakhstan, cheaper than in Russia, but the mentality of the workers is different than in other places around the world. "You can view it like this, if they are not motivated, they don't do their work. Supervisors start yelling very quickly, that's in their culture and it is accepted. You often have to check whether work is done correctly."

Before, Godfrey was in Japan, where there is a completely different mentality. "I have to remind myself that I can't change the mentality of all the Japanese, or all the Kazakhs. I have to change the systems to make them suitable for the workers' mentality." That is the challenge. 

Power plant
The greenhouse is connected to a 4000 MegaWatt power plant. "In the 1970s, when Kazakhstan was a part of Russia, that plant was mostly there to provide Russia with power. That still happens, only now it's export." QAZ Tomat gets their power cheap from this power plant. "Because of that, it was possible to hang lights in the greenhouse, so we can continue cultivation in winter." The company chose sodium lights, because they radiate a lot of heat, so they help with keeping the greenhouse warm in winter. 

38 years
Godfrey has been growing tomatoes for 38 years now, all around the world. "Since my children have moved out, I like helping companies abroad to get through the first, start-up year." Often, the owner is an investment company who needs someone with cultivation knowledge, because they don't have it, or have it less. Especially in the first year, they need Godfrey's help to start the systems up. "Generally, the idea is that I'm here for a year, my success is to be proved when I leave," says Godfrey. 

"When possible, I try to have a say in the greenhouse design," says Godfrey. "In the Netherlands, we know best how to build a greenhouse, so they are built like that all around the world. But actually, there's different demands everywhere. Because I've grown tomatoes all around the world, I have a lot of experience with various climates."

Investors often don't exactly know what is needed, and that is also what Godfrey can advise, what is needed in the one climate and not needed in another climate. "This can cause big problems in the cultivation later, so it's better to know beforehand."

For more information:
Glasshouse Consultancy
Godfrey Dol
+971 565156839

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