4Evergreen invests in sustainability in several areas. Since 2005, it has engaged in organic cultivation for the American market. The greenhouses are heated using residual heat from industry. Innovating is also important at product level. In 2014, the red and yellow striped ‘Enjoya’ bell pepper was discovered and introduced to market. As a result of rapid developments an increasing number of highly skilled employees are being recruited. Robert Grootscholte, Managing Director of 4Evergreen, is curious about how this new generation views the developments in greenhouse horticulture, and participates in the Market Match project to find out. During this event, organised on 4 and 5 October, young people are challenged to come up with creative ideas to ensure a healthy future for the food sector.
Industry generates heat for Westland
Since 2005, organic cultivation has taken place for the American market. “We adopt a growing method that is optimally sustainable, without using any crop protection agents or artificial fertilisers. With minimal energy consumption and as few environmentally harmful resources as possible”, Robert Grootscholte explains. “In addition we use CO2 originating from industry in the Hook of Holland area. Over the next few years half our acreage, around 50 hectares, will be heated by residual heat. For our sites in the Hook of Holland we are looking forward to the future installation of the heat roundabout, in which industry provides heat for Westland. At the Steenbergen site, where we cannot connect to a heat roundabout or use residual heat, we want to generate energy from biomass. A biomass plant is being developed in association with several other companies. Our various growing locations are completely energy neutral as next year we are also making the transition to solar panels.”
Experimenting with new varieties
4Evergreen continuously innovates to increase productivity and quality. The red and yellow striped bell pepper, Enjoya, was introduced to market in association with a number of other businesses. “In 2014, we discovered a mutated bell pepper plant with red and yellow striped bell peppers. We tried to grow it from seed but the plant mutated back to a yellow bell pepper plant. We vegetatively propagated the plant, which resulted in a new variety. This means we are the only grower in Europe that produces Enjoya. Sometimes we try and grow other vegetables in the greenhouse. In principle we can grow anything in the greenhouse because we can simulate a climate from elsewhere. But some vegetables are bred in such a way that they cannot be grown effectively in greenhouses. We examine ways in which we can breed these vegetables so that they can be grown in the greenhouse”, Grootscholte reveals.
'I am really curious about what young people think of autonomous cultivation, in which the computer reads the plant using big data and the greenhouse might even be entirely self-cultivating.'Managing Director 4Evergreen
Scaling up creates the need for more employees
In greenhouse horticulture little space is required for a high production vegetable. This means more and more food can be produced on smaller surface areas. Robert Grootscholte explains that scaling up results in new employees being recruited. “We have an increasing number of highly skilled employees in the research, cultivation, administrative and management departments. We maintain close contact with schools in order to promote inflows of new employees. I would like more schools to come for a guided tour, so that students can get an idea of the sector and make a more informed choice. After all, they are the new employers and employees that will come up with innovations and change the world.” The Market Match initiative puts young people in touch with the food sector. They spend two days reflecting on an issue that has an impact on the future of the fruit and vegetable sector. Robert Grootscholte outlines his expectations for Market Match: “I am really curious about what young people think of autonomous cultivation, in which the computer reads the plant using big data and the greenhouse might even be entirely self-cultivating. Ultimately, I hope that some participants will register for an internship or apply for our vacancies.”
Collaborating rather than competing
In the Market Match project 4Evergreen collaborates with other fruit and vegetable businesses. Grootscholte: “This is nothing new for us. By collaborating we are stronger, are aware of what is going on and share this information. In practice our growing specialists spend time with other growers so we learn from each other.” In the Netherlands in total over 200 bell pepper growers cultivate bell peppers on around 1,400 hectares. The Netherlands’ horticulture businesses are known for sharing a lot of knowledge with each other and for being more advanced than competitors in other countries.
4Evergreen is a specialist in growing, producing and marketing bell peppers. It has been a family-run business for five generations, and has been managed by three brothers since 2007.