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Iris Herren from Ott Gemüsebau masters lettuce cultivation on water:

"Cultivation is now better and calmer"

The cultivation of vegetables by the Swiss Ott family has a long history. Four generations have been farming in the north of Switzerland, on the border to Germany. In Basadingen, you can find both outdoor cultivation and, more recently, greenhouse cultivation. The newest greenhouse, which is less than two years old, is where Ott Gemüsebau grows tomatoes, cucumbers, and now also lettuce and pak choi on water. This last part is new for the Swiss growers, explains greenhouse manager Iris Herren.

Iris Herren

Ott Gemüse was already well acquainted with lettuce cultivation. "In winter, we used to grow lettuce in the soil in the greenhouse, alternating with tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer." With water-based lettuce cultivation, it is now possible to grow lettuce year-round. "It was a request from our buyer, a Swiss supermarket chain."

Not too wet and not too dry
The cultivation in the 3.5-hectare greenhouse started in 2013. 3 hectares are dedicated to tomatoes and cucumbers, and 0.5 hectares are set aside for water-based lettuce cultivation, starting in October 2022. Here, various types of lettuce such as trio lettuce, oak leaf lettuce, and pak choi float on rafts in a pond, employing Deep Water Culture (DWC). "For us, this is the most suitable system. Cultivation on water on gutters would have required much higher investments."

Ott Gemüse is the only one in Switzerland using DWC cultivation, says Iris. NFT cultivation on gutters does occur here and there. A few months after the start of the cultivation, during fall of 2022, she decided to contact Ron Peters from Future Growing in January 2023. "The way of cultivating and creating the right climate was very different from what we were used to. In the other greenhouse, we didn't have insect net and blackout shades, the ventilation was different as well. Initially, it was really a challenge to keep the seedlings in styrofoam plates not too wet but also not too dry."

This makes the cultivation "easier" a year and a half after the start, Iris laughs. "The water and the climate are now better. I don't need to make adjustments all the time, anymore." Ron has a lot of experience and approaches cultivation with a pragmatic view. That brings peace. "Only in spring and fall do we make bigger adjustments. The cultivation is now much calmer and easier, compared to cultivating tomatoes and cucumbers.

Technically, the greenhouse is equipped with the modern techniques you would expect in a newly built greenhouse, such as insect nets, blackout shades, LED lighting, and for optimal water quality, a system that adds oxygen to the water.

To further optimize the humidity in the greenhouse, more fans will be added. "Local authorities require us to completely screen our light emissions, so ventilation is a challenge", the grower acknowledges. "With this investment, which we will make later this year, we want to take another step forward."

Ron will surely notice it on one of his next visits. After frequently visiting the cultivation at the start Iris sees him about twice a year now. "During those visits, together we adjust the climate strategy." Unlike in the beginning, the greenhouse manager can now 'step away' from the cultivation more easily, everything is running smoothly.

For more information:
Ron Peters
Future Growing
Gantel 12
7891 XA Klazienaveen
+31 (0)6 2505 2941
[email protected]

Iris Herren
Ott Gemüsebau
[email protected]