Since its founding in 1996, the Haisheng Group has become a well-known brand in the high-end fruit and vegetable market and started with high-tech glasshouse tomatoes. De Ruiter is very proud that Haisheng has selected Merlice as their large truss variety since 2019.
Adam Huang, New Business Development Specialist, and Kangping An, Growing Engineer, share their reasons for choosing Merlice: ‘In recent years, we saw the demand for large truss tomato expanding rapidly. Our team set out to select the best variety to start growing tomatoes in this segment. Joyce Cui, vice president of Haisheng Group, supported us in comparing varieties, including various tomatoes from De Ruiter. Our team visited the De Ruiter Experience Center in The Netherlands to closely examine our options. In 2018, we trialed Merlice and then decided to start growing this tomato in our Zhangye base.’
Yield and flexibility
Adam continues: ‘The most important reason for us to choose Merlice is its high yield potential. Over the last two years, Merlice has convincingly proven its value in production. We also appreciate Merlice’s flexibility: we can harvest both truss and loose.
As for production, Haisheng has set a record for Merlice: Merlice produces over 82 kilos per square meter. Adam explains: ‘We grow Merlice without any artificial light. The production and yield of Merlice benefit from the excellent growing conditions in the Zhangye region. We have high light levels, that is comparable to Spain. Due to an altitude of 1500 meters, we can grow with cold nights, even in summer. This makes it easy to control plants and diseases, and of course, easy to grow with a big difference in temperature during the day and the night. This is how we manage to steer Merlice in an optimal, generative way.’
Merlice on De Ruiter rootstock
Haisheng selected a De Ruiter rootstock for Merlice. Kangping mentions: ‘When aiming for a high yield, Merlice needs a very strong root system. Just that is one of the best features of the rootstock of our choice. This rootstock variety supports the whole plant for better production and better plant vitality. And after two years, we can say that Merlice has performed very well with this De Ruiter rootstock.’
Haisheng now experiences the confidence of retail when it comes to Merlice: ‘The Chinese market demands reasonable prices, but also the absence of pesticides. Merlice has a strong resistance package, so we do not use any pesticides at all and we sometimes make use of biological crop control instead.’
Adam adds: ‘From harvest to market or supermarket, it takes a maximum of 3 days to distribute. All tomatoes are packed within our own packing facility. Haisheng’s market evolves around bigger cities like Shanghai and Beijing; we cover the whole east and south coast area in China. Merlice on a truss stays fresh for a long time due to post-harvest nutrients from the truss. As for shelf life: that differs much per location. Like some wholesale markets, they feature no climate control. So, on some points of sale, the tomatoes encounter high temperatures and show shorter shelf life.’
‘We are now branding Merlice for its intense flavor. Unlike Europe, we do not have a habit of using large truss tomatoes in salads. We use Merlice for cooking, for example, as the ideal tomato for the traditional cuisine: scrambled eggs with tomato. For the culinary market, the traditional mid-tech tomatoes were leading. But Merlice tastes much better!’
At this moment, Haisheng features over 70 hectares of glasshouses built in just 4 years. In the next 4 years, Haisheng will plan to add another impressive 100 hectares. Adam elaborates: ‘On our site in Zhangye, we worked with a Dutch construction company to build our glasshouses. They do much more than just building a glasshouse. Together, we build state-of-the-art, semi-closed glasshouses that integrate temperature, light, water, fertilizer, logistics, and other elements into intelligent high-tech glasshouses.
Partnering with De Ruiter
Adam ends his interview: ‘We are delighted with the way we were able to partner with De Ruiter. We visited the De Ruiter Experience Center quite a few times to meet with a professional team of commercial and technical experts. Our De Ruiter representatives, Ruifang Wang and Yi Wang, have a great contribution to our business. But also, the Dutch-based team, represented by Jack Endhoven and Arco van der Hout, is always available to support technical variety expertise or discuss the latest developments on new genetics and market trends. This dynamic way of cross-regional support will benefit us with new insights and practical advice. Through inspiring digital meetings and face-to-face visits, we manage to stay in touch and continue our sustainable partnership with De Ruiter and Haisheng.’
De Ruiter Seeds