27 January 2024, US: Modern technologies can contribute to the production of locally grown, safe and sustainable vegetables. This explains the steep rise in popularity of controlled environment agriculture (CEA) in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Rijk Zwaan regularly advises on CEA projects, and the company is hosting a panel discussion called ‘Freshly Forward: Experiences from Pioneers in Controlled Environment Agriculture’ at Fruit Logistica in Berlin on Wednesday 7 February. “Three pioneers from the CEA value chain will share their successes as well as lessons learned. These insights can help all growers to move ‘freshly forward’, which is why we warmly invite CEA newcomers to attend this session,” says Frank Bouland, Client Manager Horticultural Projects at Rijk Zwaan .
Dozens of CEA projects
The panel discussion will be moderated by Frank, who is involved in dozens of CEA projects worldwide, together with his colleague Shuang Fan. The panel members are Colin Chapdelaine, President at Whole Leaf (Canada), Gert van Straalen, CEO at The Flavour Farm (UK) and Dirk Aleven, Founder of FoodVentures (the Netherlands). They will all share their own expert insights into various aspects of CEA. Frank explains: “CEA is a way of producing food using modern cultivation methods under carefully controlled conditions in protected environments such as greenhouses or ‘vertical farms’. This approach is commonly applied to fruiting crops such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, but can also be used to grow lettuce and leafies hydroponically.”
Many factors are driving CEA
According to the Client Manager Horticultural Projects, there are many factors driving the strong rise in interest in CEA, and these will be discussed in more detail by the panel. “Demand for vegetables that are locally grown, sustainably produced and safe to eat is increasing, in North America and elsewhere. A controlled environment makes it possible to recycle water and significantly reduce the use of pesticides. Secondly, governments in regions including Asia are stimulating projects that improve self-sufficiency, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. The growing labour shortage is another contributing factor; CEA enables the cultivation of crops such as lettuce to be automated. And climate change is another driver. Whereas growers of open-field growers face challenges due to increased rainfall, droughts or extreme temperatures, a controlled environment helps them to supply a consistently high-quality product all year round. This consistency is very important, including for major retailers.”
Sharing insights to move freshly forward together
These megatrends are generating widespread interest in CEA worldwide, but it can be difficult to take the next step to turn that interest into a concrete project. The panel members, who are all pioneers in CEA, will share details of their own experiences in this process. “What were success factors for them, and what have they learned? How does CEA fit in with open-field cultivation? And who are their partners? Newcomers to the sector can learn from these insights. We believe in the value of exchanging knowledge,” explains Frank.
In contact with the right experts
For help with their CEA projects, investors and growers can turn to Rijk Zwaan. “We have crop advisors and market specialists on all continents. Based on our knowledge of the vegetable market, we can advise them on the right product choices. In addition, we have access to a large network of specialized suppliers in greenhouse construction, climate control, substrates, lighting, irrigation and more. My colleague Shuang and I bring investors and growers into contact with the right experts, both internally and externally. Modern cultivation methods can help the industry to move ‘freshly forward’ so that we can increase the production of locally grown, safe and sustainable vegetables together,” Frank concludes.
Join us for the ‘Freshly Forward: Experiences from Pioneers in Controlled Environment Agriculture’ panel discussion at the Fresh Produce Forum in Hall 23 | E-03 on Wednesday 7 February (13:00-14:00 h). If you are interested in CEA projects, contact Frank Bouland: firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Freshly Forward, from Foundation to Future’ – this is the theme Rijk Zwaan has chosen for tackling today’s challenges, together with its partners. We will be presenting robust and resilient solutions as well as inspiring innovations at Fruit Logistica 2024 (Hall 1.2, D-13). You are also welcome to visit the Rijk Zwaan Retail Center in Berlin – the company’s very own experience and research facility
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