On Thursday, September 28, at 6 a.m., the Tuinbouw Jongeren Oostland group set off on their annual study trip. Sixteen young people – entrepreneurs, employees, or Dutch horticultural sector students – headed to Germany with a few stops along the way in Southeast Netherlands.
Previous trips were further afield to Spain, England, Portugal, Poland, and Italy. Though a little closer to home, this year’s trip was no less impressive. The youngsters are back, and here is what they had to say about their trip.
Grodan Rockwool plant
First stop: the Grodan Rockwool plant in the Dutch city of Roermond, where rockwool plugs, blocks, and mats are produced. During the visit, there was time for a content presentation and a tour of one of the production lines in the factory. The presentation explained the basic materials needed to produce rock wool, their requirements for the product, and the recycling process. One of the challenges is to reduce plastic use. That is being actively researched to find the best possible alternative.
During the tour, the group was introduced to various companies within Rockwool. It also became clear that there is a difference between rockwool for insulation and that for greenhouse vegetables. The latter absorbs moisture, while the insulation material is water-repellent.
The group got to see the impressive process of how molten basalt is spun into rockwool and formed into a large mat. That is sawn into a finished product. The visit concluded with Grodan’s trends and developments, focusing on strawberry cultivation, the GroSens, and the e-Gro platform.
Jacobs mushroom farm
About 30 minutes from the Rockwool plant lies the Jacobs family mushroom farm in Kessel. There, about 345,000 kg are harvested on a cultivation area of around 3.5 ha per week. Bart Jacobs and his father, John, welcomed the group. While enjoying a Limburg flan – a local delicacy – the group heard a presentation about the nursery.
All the mushrooms are grown for the canning industry, and these mushrooms eventually go all over the world. It also became clear how vital mushrooms’ growing medium is, including mycelium spore grafting and the importance of spreading casing soil (peat) over the bed.
During the tour, the group was impressed by the high level of automation and precise cultivation control within the enclosed growing cells. After each receiving a jar of mushrooms to take home, the group left for their third and final company of the day.
Mushrooms at the Jacobs farm.
Once the group arrived at the Raijlof nursery just across the Noord-Brabant provincial border, it was time to learn more about white and red chicory cultivation. This begins with the grower propagating chicory pens from seeds. These are harvested and stored in freezers to rest the plants. After a minimum freezing time, the pens are slowly thawed, placed in growing trays, and put in dark growing cells. The mature foliage is picked and packaged on-site in the processing hall.
It was interesting to see how much this chicory and the mushroom farm have in common with greenhouse horticulture. The tour at Raijlof ended with authentic Brabant sausage rolls and a few drinks.
After a successful first day, the group visited two more companies on Friday, September 29. In the morning, they went to Emsflower in Emsbüren, Germany. This bedding plant nursery spans some 83 hectares divided between the Netherlands and Germany.
Emsflower is more than just that, though, as owner Tom Kuipers proved when he showed the group around. After seeing the restaurant, ‘adventure garden’ (with meerkats, monkeys, and a crocodile), and the show greenhouse where various flowers and vegetable crops are being grown, the group was led to an on-site ‘hotel’. With 150 rooms, Emsflower fully controls housing for its seasonal workers.
The greenhouse currently boasts pansies, primula, potted chrysanthemums, and poinsettias. The farm also grows tomatoes for the local market on another 15 hectares—a unique combination. Several business processes are fully automated, and they use a private app with information about all personnel, orders, cultivation, and energy. At the end of the tour, the group got to see the biomass power plant. It runs entirely on pruning regional waste and provides the nursery with heat and electricity.
Friday afternoon was dedicated to potting soil supplier Klasmann-Deilmann. After a presentation on the company’s history and plans, the group saw the production process in action.
At the Geeste site, alternative raw materials and new products like strawberry and greenhouse vegetable grow bags are processed and produced. The visitors gained insight into the wood fiber processing and coconut fiber block conversion processes. These are eventually used in potting soil as a peat substitute. They saw another alternative at a Joint Venture of Klasmann-Deilmann and Olde-Bolhaar composting plant. At that location, pruning waste is transformed into green compost that Klasmann-Deilmann adds to its substrates.
On Saturday morning, September 30, Fred Kruisselbrink warmly welcomed the group to Znthura Arndt. He has managed this Anthura site in Germany for 27 years. At this 11-hectare location, Phalaenopsis starting material is grown.
The cuttings come from Anthura’s tissue culture laboratories in Northern Macedonia and China, where they are propagated and grown. At the modern nursery – with an automatic cultivation system, three screen cloths, misting, and lighting – this company grows a quality product that accurately reflects its image. Anthura is also further developing and optimizing its cultivation. For example, it uses self-developed trays with irrigation technology and is switching to 100% LED lighting.
The visit to Anthura.
Last stop: Mertens in Horst, Germany, on the afternoon of Sunday, October 1. After a short company presentation and a tasty lunch, Thea Muysers led the group on a tour through the company. That gave them a good picture of Mertens and what that supplier can do for growers.
Tour organizers Hannah Zwinkels, Mark van der Arend, Mike Zuidgeest, and Leon van Mil can reflect on a very successful trip. They want to, once again, thank the companies for their hospitality, opening up their businesses, and good care. They also want to thank Bazuin Komkommers and People Direkt for providing transportation.
On to the planning for next year’s trip. Any ideas of where the group should go? Please let them know at email@example.com.
Source: Tuinbouw jongeren Oostland