"The world is fast-moving and climate change is a danger. The amount of farmland is restricted and food insecurity is growing," says Stavros Tabaoglou, managing director with Bellamia Farms sa.
The company is transforming large-scale agriculture in Greece by investing in state-of-the-art greenhouses. Construction of their first semi-closed greenhouse project started recently.
In the first phase, three types of tomatoes are to be grown. The second stage of its operation will include more fresh vegetables and the production of fresh-cut, ready-made salads.
The groundwork is currently being done
Sustainable answer to conventional intensive farming
Stavros explains that Bellamia Farms sa was founded to grow vegetables in a more responsible way.
"We've acknowledged that conventional intensive farming is far from optimal and wanted to provide a solution," he says.
The company has partnered with Waterfall Capital Investors LLC to bring a changing step in Greek farming production with the first large-scale, high-tech hydroponic greenhouse production in the country.
Its venue is established in Central Greece at the Municipality of Lamia spreading over an area of 255,000 m2 (25.5 hectares).
Currently the greenhouse is being realized.
Largest semi-closed facility in Greece
"The Bellamia Farms’ greenhouses will comprise 160,000 m2 and the extra facilities for administration, R&D and standardization will cover an area of 10,000 m2 (2.48 acres)," Stavros shows. "We are looking to produce 10 thousand tons per year on a ten-month basis, making Bellamia Farms sa the largest Semi-Closed and most modern hydroponic plant in Greece and the biggest tomato production unit in the local community."
Initially, Bellamia Farms sa will introduce three different types of tomatoes to the consumers.There's beefsteak tomatoes, with the impressive looks and the rich taste, suitable for salads and cooking, medium sized TOVs suitable also for salads and cooking, and cherry tomatoes, with the sweet taste, suitable for nutritious snacks, salads and cooking. The second stage of its operation will include more fresh vegetables and the production of fresh-cut, ready-made salads.
Hydroponics to increase yields and reduce energy use and waste
"We've seen that conventional agriculture is a massive consumer of land, energy and water; it contributes to environmental degradation and may lead to social injustice," Stavros explains.
Bellamia Farms’ looked for proven technology to conserve natural resources, such as soil and water, as well as biodiversity.
That's why the Bellamia Farms sa greenhouse will be a semi-closed one, in which a CHP 8,8 MW will be used (Co-generation of heat and electricity).
"The hydroponic system and the semi-closed technology present a philosophy of sustainability and respect for our world. We can grow more fresh food with far fewer resources, even on infertile soil covered with stone wool substrates. The hydroponic system lets us place the plants at the most favorable height for their development."
The use of cool outside air in the semi-closed system will enable them to precisely control the climate in the greenhouse and cool the plants naturally year-round, especially during the summer months. Thanks to the over-pressure in the greenhouse, the ventilation reduces the risk of harmful insects.
On top of that, to keep the vegetables free from chemical crop protection, Integrated Pest Management will be put into place and beneficial insects such as bumblebees are to be released in the greenhouse.
With climate software, light and temperature conditions will be monitored inside the greenhouse. "Consequently, the crops are more resilient and protected from the unpredictable turns of the weather."
An integrated drip irrigation system will collect, filter and recycle the water. "Thereby, it uses up to 75% less water than standard hydroponic methods," says Stavros.
The finished products will be processed via technologically advanced product sorting, packaging and storage lines
"Committed to these principles, Bellamia Farms reduces the amount of waste, conserves natural resources, increases economic security, prevents pollution, saves energy, and supports the Greek primary sector in the most efficient and sustainable way," Stavros concludes.
Cultivating trust within the company and the community
In addition to growing vegetables, the company also wants to grow a bond with the local community. The company employs more than 400 employees (70% of which are skilled horticulturists), including a new generation of scientists, and technical staff supports, and is committed to provide an excellent working environment and to ensure their safety, balance, and progress.
"Building trust within the community is an integral part of our mission", Stavros concludes. "Over these first years of operation, we have been determined and dedicated in fostering a positive social impact in the society. We support socially vulnerable groups, contribute to the efforts towards greater environmental awareness and express our respect for land and people through reliable deeds and products."
"Bellamia Farms is more than a business plan," says Yianni Georgoulias with Waterfall Capital Investors LLC, the private investment family office that invested in Bellamia Farms sa.
"It promotes a vision of a greener, safer, and fairer world and also, a firm strategy to get there. Thus, human capital and human relationships are at the core of its operation."