Advances in protected cropping technology, particularly in semi-closed greenhouses and control systems based on artificial intelligence, enable nurseries to be built and crops produced in places where previously it would have been unfeasible to grow anything well or profitably.
Dutch high tech greenhouses are catching the attention of investors from outside the traditional horticultural industry who, particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic, can see opportunities for production nearer to markets to avoid the risks currently associated with international trade.
“We are increasingly seeing projects that shift production closer to large centres of population,” said Henk van Tuijl, export manager at Kubo. This Dutch construction company pioneered the semi-closed greenhouse. “But often that includes trying to grow in places with no suitable land, water or other resources.” Van Tuijl said the key advantage of the semi-closed greenhouse for such projects is the high level of control over-irrigation, heating or cooling, and air movement, making production possible in regions of the world where conventional structures can’t operate effectively.
FoodVentures is one company securing investment for Dutch-led greenhouse projects in countries with climates that have, until now, ruled out year-round crops of fresh produce. They manage high tech greenhouses on an entire profit and loss responsibility. The first project involved growing lettuce on hydroponics in Ukraine. “Ukrainian workers were going to western Europe to work in greenhouses producing tomatoes, for example, which then exported back to Ukraine,” said CEO Dirk Aleven. “We thought we could work much more efficiently closer to the market.”
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