Herb grower Piet Buysman, Andijk: “Retailers more often want Skal and PlanetProof certified products.” In his experience, organic growing is not always possible. “Moreover, it remains to be seen which brand offers the most environmental gain.” He pleads for a complete and nuanced story about On the Way to PlanetProof and Biological to be presented to retailer and consumer.
Buysman Kruiden grows fresh herbs in pots: parsley, dill, mint, basil, nutmeg, coriander, and chives. The family company from Andijk got its MPS-certificate and Vita Certa, the Triple A label of MPS, years ago. Since April 2017, products of Buysman Kruiden also don the quality mark On the way to PlanetProof.
Piet: “We spend a lot of effort on sustainable production, based on the conviction that this is the only way to save both the sector and the environment. You will not find any chemical products at Buysman. To combat pathogens, we only use natural enemies, such as pirate bugs and ichneumon wasps. The production process is for the most part manually operated, and for years we have had a heat pump that operates on earth warmth and solar panels. We also use LED lighting to light the most part of our greenhouses.”
Buysman is happy with PlanetProof, the new sustainability standard for the horticulture and agriculture sector. Piet: “A lot of supermarkets, in our case buyer organization Superunie, want to go a step further and more often announce their preference for organic grown products.
Test with biological growing
Piet: “Of course we want to meet the wishes of our customers, and that is why we started, on trial basis, growing basil organically, the most vulnerable of our herbs, a year ago. But it turns out not to be that easy, without decreasing the quality of the plant. Particularly the shelf life of these herbs is a lot shorter than in regular cultivation. Particularly during the winter the plants go bad much faster, because they hardly see any sunlight. To prevent that, we have to supply the right nutrients. Completely eliminating artificial fertilizer, as the brand prescribes remains a challenge to us, but which does not deter us at all. We must first make sure that the quality we have now, can be maintained, before we stop using artificial fertilizer. Quality will always be number one.”
Take all measures into account
PlanetProof allows the use of artificial fertilizer, if it is necessary and based on soil and crop analyses. On the other hand, PlanetProof has high requirements where Skal does not, with regard to energy saving, water quality, water saving, and waste management. Piet: "I see that a lot of retailers and consumers are not aware of the differences between quality labels. Actually, they do not know what exactly they are choosing. Also, it has never been scientifically demonstrated that the biological quality mark is better for the environment than PlanetProof. I do not want to claim that one quality mark is better than the other; both are more than adequate. But it is no more than fair that all measures are taken into account when choosing, and looking at what is feasible for growers. To us growers and SMK the task is communicating more clearly to retailers, and to retailers the task is communicating more clearly to the consumer."