Germans are critical when it comes to cultivating crops under glass. Horticultural company Wittenberg Gemüse has found that it takes years before local governments and residents get on board with the cultivation. Kevin van IJperen with Wittenberg Gemüse, the largest greenhouse horticulture business in the Berlin area, talks about this in the Agrospecial Bedekte voedingstuinbouw (Special about covered food horticulture, Dutch) from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.
Connection with the Netherlands
The size of the German greenhouse horticulture industry is only a quarter of the size of the Dutch greenhouse horticulture sector (1300 hectares of covered cultivation, not including strawberries, in 2019). The intensive cultivation form is usually unknown and unpopular with local governments and residents. It takes gradual development and a continuous investment in societal support, according to Kevin with the horticultural business, affiliated to Van Gog Kwekerijen in Deurne, the Netherlands.
This company started in 2009 in Germany with the construction of a greenhouse horticulture business near Berlin. Now, they have 32 hectares in Germany and next season another 9 hectares will be added. Next to the greenhouse cultivation of tomatoes, bell peppers and strawberries, they are adding tunnels for strawberries.
They chose for a plot just outside Wittenberg in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt. A big plus of this location was that surplus heat and CO2 could be used from a nearby chemical company. After five years, the first tomatoes were ready to be picked in the then 15 hectares of greenhouse.
Kevin was there since the first harvest as a manager, and came across problems with permit applications, the lack of trust in, for instance, the installation of a surplus heat pipe and scepticism among the local residents. At the moment he has a lot of plans for, among other things, selling new varieties among which brown tomatoes, after tests with local consumers and the re-valuation of side streams.
What Kevin needs, asks the Ministry? "Knowledge and development of ideas that fit the local context. There is a lot of unawareness about greenhouses, and little attention in the German green education. All knowledge and technique still comes from the Netherlands, although I do have a collaboration with the University of Halle and the Humboldt University in Berlin also visits with students. I always invite them to apply for a job."