Eelco Wolthuizen, Metazet

"Pioneering in Chinese greenhouses"

A controllable plant. That is the way for Eelco Wolthuizen of Metazet to grow the most beautiful flowers and the tastiest vegetables. Not growing in soil, but in the same material that you use to insulate your house. 'In the ground, you never know precisely what nutrients are reaching the plant. By growing in peat or rockwool, you can change the recipe daily and therefore control the plant and grow much more.' This horticultural method should have been snapped up in the densely populated China, but nothing is further from the truth. On the website China 2025, he tells more about it.

On his electric scooter, Eelco comes to the office, a site located opposite the Workers' Stadium close to the popular district of Sanlitun. The office is smaller than you would expect for a business that has been in existence since 1978. The bright green chairs and the large photos of glasshouses full of tomato plants makes you think about healthy, sustainable crops. Metazet supplies cultivation systems for glasshouses - vegetables, fruit or flowers. 'We do it all.' With Metazet/FormFlex, a side business of Metazet, the cultivation gutter was developed, a discovery which means that plants don't need to grow in the ground any more. During a visit to the Argi Garden, the only agricultural centre in the heart of Beijing, Eelco sets out the advantages of the cultivation system.

The cultivation gutters can be produced on location with a portable machine on which a roll of 2000 kg of steel hangs. 'That's where the gutter comes from, which can be a hundred metres long. We now have one machine in China. Currently, that's enough.' Despite the fact that the mobile machine is a big success for Metazet/FormFlex, big projects here are relatively scarce. 'Our biggest project at the moment is in Tianjin where there is 30 hectares of glass which will shortly be extended.' In addition, there are a lot of small scale projects in China. 'Then you need to be thinking of 5000 square metres. That is not comparable with the order in Europe. There, projects start at 100,000 square metres. 'If a glasshouse project is going to be profitable, then it needs these scales. In small projects, the start up costs and fixed costs are too high to be profitable. There is still a lot of pioneering to do.'

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