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"Organic is very much alive in the market"

Snack tomato growers opt for prevention with biology

Over the past 20 years, TVA Growers grew from one and a half hectares to over 11 hectares, spread over three locations in Bleiswijk, Berkel en Rodenrijs, and Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel. In 2014, owners Ferry and Marcel Adegeest switched from loose round tomatoes to cherry tomatoes. "We were coming out of a difficult period of crisis followed by the enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) outbreak. This switch turned out to be a golden move in retrospect," they say in an interview with Van Iperen that also talks about organic crop protection.

Organic is the standard when it comes to controlling, says Ferry: "Last year, we did not have to intervene a single time. If necessary, we have resources behind us."

'Younger public wants mostly organic'
Three years ago, on the advice of Erik Noordam of Van Iperen, they switched to organic. Marcel: "We are happy with that. Nobody likes to spray. It's expensive, and it's also never convenient. If you see whitefly tonight, you should intervene immediately, but you want to harvest again tomorrow, and if you spray, you can't."

Marcel: "We are dealing with a different market with this crop. Snack tomatoes are mainly consumed by a younger audience, and they mainly want organic." Ferry: "As soon as someone asks you what you do and you tell them you grow tomatoes, the next question is: organic? That's strong in the market." TVA Growers sees an annual decline in the acreage of cherry tomatoes. A third is expected to drop off this year.

Different way of thinking
Using biology does require growers to think differently. "You have to make sure you get ahead of the problems. If you have a problem with the current means, you won't get rid of it all year. Those means are not strong enough anymore. With biology, you are more preventive. We use predatory mites against white flies. We have to feed them all year round, or they will die. Sometimes you wonder whether we are not introducing too many, but the risk is too great to try. In biology, we assume: more is better."

Tomato virus
They are wary of the tomato virus ToBRFV. "You have to keep that out. So we don't visit each other's gardens. Nor do we exchange employees. That is sometimes annoying when one location is quiet and people go home early, while the other is busy. But we don't take any chances." Van Iperen's consultants also no longer enter the greenhouse. The important thing is that we do a lot of scouting. We have trained people internally for that. Ferry: "New fans have to be hung now. We also do that all by ourselves."

The purchase of fertilizers and agents is done by Oxin Growers at Van Iperen. Only the biology came from someone else. "When Eric came up with an attractive offer, we switched. At Van Iperen, the price is competitive and it's a reliable company. What we order is actually always there within 24 hours. They have everything in stock. What we are still very happy with is the level measuring system, which means you no longer have to worry about the stock of liquid fertilizer. That has created a lot of peace of mind in the operations."

Read more here (Dutch).

For more information: 
Van Iperen
[email protected]

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