Patrick has been working as a cultivation specialist at Beekenkamp Plants ‘s Gravenzande location for 3 years now. Built in 2017 the site specializes in fruit vegetable production. “Getting to work at this location was a great challenge for me; a new greenhouse with modern facilities, a very high hygiene protocol and committed colleagues,” Patrick shares enthusiastically. “Besides that, it is very cool that we are growing fruit vegetables year-round. A number of other plant growers switch to ornamental products in spring or summer. We can grow fruit vegetables year-round because of our international customer base. For example, our French customers have a different growing season than our Dutch customers.”
Patrick started as a cultivation specialist and soon acquired a new responsibility: Water Management. Every morning it is determined if the vegetable plants need water. Patrick does this by weighing several plants per floor. This helps determine how much water the plants have absorbed and how much water is needed today. Patrick checks per floor the climate conditions the plant has had, the variety, the type of crop and the stage the plant is in. After it’s clear which plants need what amount of water, it is time to prepare the recipes. “Every plant has its own nutritional needs. This nutrition is processed in the water we give; we call these recipes. After this step, we give water through the ebb and flow system.” Patrick can control all of this from the climate computer.
After the plants have had water, the water is pumped back to the water technical room. The water first passes through a filter, so the largest dirt particles are filtered out. Then it is pumped further to the “soiled” silos outside. After this, the water is pumped back in and the water is completely disinfected via UV-filters.
Then it goes to the “clean” silos and is ready to be reused. Beekenkamp Plants also has an Opticlear Diamond. This is used to keep the silos in the water technical room clean. « The Opticlear Diamond doesn’t give bacteria a chance and the water is 100% clean before it goes to the vegetable plants.”
Watch the video below for a look behind the scenes of water management at Beekenkamp Plants!
In addition to water management, Patrick is also involved in crop protection. He explains: “Every week I scout the entire greenhouse together with my colleague Yve. During the scouting, we check the yellow sticky traps and vegetable plants for the presence of harmful insects. We enter this in the scout app, after which we consult with the crop protection specialist about the crop protection strategy.” Because scouting takes place every week, a good overview of pest pressure can be kept, and any necessary actions can be taken in time.
“How do I feel about working with living products? I’m not used to anything else, it’s the best there is!” laughs Patrick. “The process from seed to plant, and then from plant to, for example, bell pepper or cucumber is a wonderful development!”. Working with living products also means working weekend shifts once every 4 weeks. “The weekend shift is part of my job, and I’ll be honest: It really gives a boost to walk around in a 9-hectare greenhouse on a Sunday afternoon and be in full control!”
Fruit vegetables season
The traditional Dutch fruit vegetable season is upon us, are Patrick and the team ready for it? “Of course! Now we are very busy cleaning the entire greenhouse, for example the floors, the insect screens, the machines, everything is completely disinfected. Hygiene is one of the most important parts during the cultivation of fruit vegetables. Together we go for the best result!” Patrick concludes.