With a height of almost 10 meters, the greenhouse that Richel built for Teknosera two years ago was the highest one in Turkey. It still is, and it will also be one of the largest: the geothermally heated greenhouse is being expanded to almost ten hectares. “Since the installation is prepared for it and the geothermal heat is available, we will lower our cost price and optimize the use of the facilities.”
It's a super modern greenhouse the team with TEKNOSERA grows in
Hot summer, cold winter
Now summer is nearing on the Northern hemisphere the temperatures are rising slowly, yet in the Turkish village Köprülü, near the Teknosera greenhouse, it was only a couple of weeks ago when the outside temperature was just some degrees above zero. Since the project is located 1000 m above sea level, in the winter temperatures of 10 degrees below zero are no exception. “Thanks to our geothermal heat source the temperature inside was a comfortable 14 degrees”, Mr Suleyman Toros with Teknosera says.
The geothermal heat source is one of the features that makes the greenhouse project a remarkable one: a sustainable, high-tech way to grow throughout the winter. It was also one of the reasons they were visited recently by the former Turkish minister of Agriculture and the current minister of Energy. “Since this is one of the projects that shows the possibilities of high-tech growing in Turkey, it’s a project that many people can be proud of”, says Nima Djelveh with Richel Group. The French company has built the structure, has realized the electrical and the screening installation and has collaborated closely with the growers in order to realize all of this – a collaboration that turned out very well and that made the first two growing seasons of Teknosera a success.
Many visitors for the sustainable greenhouse project, including government representatives. Prior to the COVID-outbreak, the minister of energy and the former minister of agriculture visited the greenhouse.
“We learned a lot during our first season as the climate can be harsh”, says Emirhan Toros with Teknosera. “Currently we’re in the second season and we are able to make more out of the crop.” In the greenhouse Klimbo TOVs are being grown. He explains how the climatic conditions are both a challenge as an opportunity for the company. “We’re growing during the winter season and as you can imagine there’s hardly any local production available on the market. Nowadays our prices are maybe 0.65 euros, but in winter we can make more than 1 euro, a price we need since our costs are higher but also a price our customers are willing to pay since our quality and quantity is more stable than that of local growers.”
Following this, the Teknosera tomatoes have not only been sold to the local retailer Migros but have also been sold in Migros locations abroad: in Germany, Switzerland and Poland for example. Other than the retailer also other retailers have shown interest. “Including the Dutch, but they currently couldn’t match our expected price.”
Lowering cost price thanks to expansion
However, the team with Teknosera is optimistic about adding new destinations to their export list since they are hoping to lower their cost price by optimizing the use of the facilities. “When we erected our greenhouse, everything was prepared for a 10 hectare facility: the water, heating and electricity system. That means the initial costs for realizing our facility were high, so enlarging our growing capacity will lower our cost per tomato. And now we’re ready to do so. Richel has shipped the materials and since currently everything runs on schedule, we’re hoping to start growing in the new greenhouse in the fall.”
With the expansion they will not only optimize the use of the facilities, but they will also realize year-round production. “With the first phase we’re emptying out our greenhouse in summer, since that’s when most local growers are in production. When the new greenhouse is ready, we’ll be able to grow on two different schedules so we can supply our partners in the chain year-round with our products”, Mr Suleyman says.
That means the greenhouse will have to be ready in time. Fortunately, Nima explains, Richel has been able to keep up production during the COVID crisis. “The factory continued working and we did our best to work on all projects that were signed before lockdown. With two shifts and a strict protocol we’ve been able to do so. As Mr Toros explains, it is of the highest importance to have the greenhouse ready in time in order to match the required season schedule.”
This vision is one of the examples why the Toros family likes working with the Richel team. “We value their friendship and have done so for a long time – but that’s not the most important when it comes to business. We’ve had no problems in the first phase and expect the same for the second phase. The way the team with Richel keeps the techniques up to date and help us to do so as well, makes them first class.”
Ready for expansion!
Expansion to 20 hectare
It might be clear: if things go as planned and if the growers will be able to realize their full 5-year-plan, which includes expansion to a 20 hectare facility, they will be happy to keep collaborating with their French friends. “Our greenhouse was the first one of this size in Turkey, a 12.8 m width with 6 meters under the gutter. The team helped us realize this since we all believed that with this amount of air in the greenhouse, we could control the climate and make our plants happy. And plants are like your children - you want to keep them happy”, Suleyman laughs, adding that there’s only one thing that could be improved in working with Richel. “You know that the French car builders of Renault are building a car factory in Turkey? We hope that Richel will do the same, to make our third and fourth phase.”