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Photos: Israeli bumblebees work in Irkutsk cucumber greenhouse

Tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants in Angarsk in the Irkutsk region, Russia, are pollinated in winter by bumblebees from Israel. Bumblebees allow an increase in productivity by 15% on average, providing a higher quality pollination. Thanks to these furry assistants, the enterprise manages to collect 13 kilos of bell peppers and 15 kilos of eggplants per min winter.

“Before the New Year, one bumblebee hive cost €35,50, and now it costs over €53,00. Bumblebees live in one hive for about 6 to 8 weeks on average, and then we need to purchase a new one. Growing vegetables in winter is rather costly, especially with a fully automated process, as components need replacing and diagnostics need to be made,” shared Mr. Alexander Kolchak, the deputy general director of JSC Teplichnoe in Angarsk.

“In winter, we mainly grow cucumbers on the acreage of 6 ha. We plant the seeds in November and place the seedlings in the ground by the middle of December, allowing us to collect the first crops in January. Unlike the greenhouses where the eggplants and bell peppers are planted, the cucumber greenhouses do not have supplemental lighting,” Mr. Kolchak shared. Cucumbers in Angarsk grow until June. While the season lasts, the enterprise collects 25-26 kilos per m2.

JSC Teplichnoe employs 250 associates, almost all of whom are local dwellers. Having collected 400 tons of cabbage from 15 ha, the greenhouse team has set a record in 2014. That result is attributed to a good variety, acquired in the Netherlands.

It is worth reminding that the enterprises of Irkutsk region are lacking finances for growing big batches of cucumbers and tomatoes, and local producers cannot meet the demand. Winter production is very costly, and growers need to save on electricity as much as they can. On top of that, they are forced to compete with the Chinese produce, which costs less and is abundant in the region. "Proper investments in the sector are required in order for Irkutsk region dwellers to enjoy fresh vegetables all year round," says Mr. Kolchak.

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