Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen many conventional greenhouse vegetable suppliers add the growing medicinal cannabis industry to their business. The consultants of Cultivators operate the other way around: with the collaboration with Tim van Hissenhoven, they are expanding into the lettuce & herbs industry. “Lettuce and cannabis have more in common than you might see at first sight”, he says.
It was only last year that Sonny Moerenhout & Pim Molenaars teamed up to help the cannabis industry with their knowledge on growing facilities. Whether it’s training, research & development projects, turn-key and project development or daily operations and management, they can help growers and investors in setting up and executing these activities. Now Tim van Hissenhoven has joined the team. Practically born in a greenhouse, he’s started up hydroponic lettuce farms from the drawing board and already consults on various projects, as well as helping growers with the daily cultivation and management support.
“Lettuce and cannabis have more in common than you might initially think. Both industries are young growth markets with a lot of potential and many new projects. They also share the demand for knowledge, network and people”, he explains. He and his new Cultivators colleagues have known each other for a longer time, and seeing how their activities lined up made them decide to join forces. It’s not just their age – relatively young, especially when you look at the general age in the greenhouse industry – that connects them, Sonny says. “We see the same market developments, share the same vision and realise that we can achieve more together. We are all very ambitious, internationally oriented and we like to join forces with each other and the client.”
So for the lettuce market specifically, Tim explains how the demand for hydroponically grown lettuce is growing all over the world. “In Europe the number of projects has grown strongly, but especially in the US there is very strong growth. We also see strong growth in Asia, and here too we have several great projects running. Asia is a market that is developing very strongly.”
In this strong growth also many mistakes are being made – and that’s where the knowledge of the team comes in handy. “In the very first phase of the development of the business plan and facility, the implications of choosing a system for cultivation must be carefully considered. This applies to both the grower and the suppliers, so we made it a priority to be able to support both.”
He explains how the first phase of project realization is a critical one. “Subsequent change is more difficult/costlier, but of course it is possible.” In general though, it is more important to ensure that the focus of the grower, investor, supplier and the team is on the end result of the cultivation. “There is still too much thinking only from the technical point of view, while the technique should be at the service of the plant and the requested end product. There is no one best way of growing, and every system is unique, but together we have enough knowledge to deliver tailor-made solutions.”
This vision, with a focus on the final product and the final customer, can apply both to greenhouses and to indoor or vertical facilities. “Following this point of view, it is important not only to look at the technical aspects, but also at the economic picture”, Tim continues. “Indoor/vertical farms are an interesting form of cultivation that can be attractive in addition to cultivation in glasshouse horticulture.”
“Hydroponic growing in greenhouses and vertical farms are both global growth markets in which we are active. This goes for the lettuce market as well as the cannabis market. At the moment we do not focus on a specific market or region, but the demand naturally comes from the growth markets. Nowadays we cannot travel, but fortunately we can still do a lot from a distance. We follow the market, and who knows what the future will bring - we follow the development closely and support wherever we can.”
And that’s exactly the vision his cannabis colleagues share. “Developments in the Horti sector follow each other in rapid succession and we are seeing changes in which the focus is on broader knowledge rather than cultivation alone. We continue to look at where the demand lies and the added value we can offer our customers. Consultancy these days takes place from the first business idea to the daily operations; in other words, from seed to customer! We also help suppliers who sell their solutions to producers. Everything to achieve successful facilities.”