In 2020, Romanian herb grower Radu Nitulescu put his first greenhouse, built by Certhon, into operation. Additional investment in AVS air handling units gave him more control over the moisture balance. The company is currently working on the second phase -- again with AVS, of course. "For me, this is the ultimate way to cultivate," says the young grower. "Sustainable, clean, and efficient in every way."
Initially, it did not look like Radu Nitulescu would follow in his parents' footsteps, but after completing his law degree in 2010, he nevertheless decided to pursue a green future. "Our family business, PrestoAgri, had made a name for itself in arable crops," says the entrepreneur. "It was a large company of about 5,000 hectares. In 2011, half of it was sold to free up money for new initiatives and modernization. Five years ago, they laid the first plans to get into greenhouse horticulture. I was really looking forward to that because you have much more control over the climate and the cultivation factors in a modern greenhouse."
Something completely new
You do need the right equipment for that. Nitulescu found it in greenhouse builder Certhon. His representative and fellow countryman Levente Kovacs proved to be a good partner with whom to discuss his plans.
The grower: "High-tech greenhouse horticulture was completely new to us. We also had no experience yet in herb cultivation, which I thought presented very good opportunities. Certhon undertakes projects all over the world and gave us the confidence to persevere. We decided to complete the intended new business in two phases. That way, we could start small and gain experience, leaving room for error. When you want to start something completely new, it's nice to have that leeway."
They accomplished the first phase of more than 3,000 m2 of greenhouse and a modern, spacious business facility in 2020. They didn't skimp on equipment, either. Two screen systems, a hybrid lighting installation, a misting installation, and a closed water system with a disinfection unit make it possible to grow herbs sustainably all year round.
"We started full of good spirits," the Romanian says. "And it went pretty well, too, until the dark, wet winter of 2020-2021 threw a wrench in the works. We were already having trouble with moisture in the fall, manifesting in the form of higher disease density and lower production than anticipated. We had to ventilate a lot through the air vents, which also caused a lot of heat loss. That wasn't what I wanted."
More control over humidity
The entrepreneur consulted Certhon again. "They'd had good experiences with van Dijk Heating's AVS system. Joek van der Zeeuw calculated that four AVS units would be enough to improve humidity control. We went along with that. The units were installed and ready to run by the autumn of 2021. That made a world of difference."
Now that they are through the second winter season with AVS, Nitulescu says that the winter crop under artificial lighting performs only slightly less than the summer crop. "Production is about 10% lower, but that is to be expected. What's much more important is that we have far fewer losses and quality issues and that the post-harvest quality and shelf life of our herbs and leafy products has significantly improved. We are now the only domestic producer that can supply a wide range of consistently high-quality herbs year-round. This gives our customers and us confidence in continuity."
Confidence in continuity
Based on that confidence, PrestoAgri is already working on the second phase. It will be slightly smaller than the first greenhouse and will have three AVS units. The greenhouse will be put into operation in the spring, and the company can expand its customer base a bit.
"My almost 6,000 m2 business is not large, but it's economically healthy and very modern by Romanian standards," the self-assured entrepreneur says. "Moreover, the market is far from saturated. How and when we'll take the next step, I don't know yet. In any case, we are going to set up a trial with tomatoes, but herbs and special leafy crops will still be the star of the show for now. I do think high-tech installations from the Netherlands will continue to be important to our company. They give you a lot of control over the cultivation conditions and make for efficient use of water, nutrients, and energy."
For more information:
Van Dijk heating
Tel.: +31(0)30 656 38 44