Recently, Tuinbouw Jongeren Oostland (TJO) visited Wageningen with 29 young horticulturists, accompanied by Stefan Hendriks and fellow board members Tijmen van den Bosch and Leon van Mil. In Portugal, perhaps not the most obvious destination for greenhouse growers, there are a number of active Dutch companies. Several locations were visited, including breeder & propagator Florensis, hydrangea grower Sjaak van Schie, soft fruit producer Frutadivina, succulent grower Amigo, plant breeder AltaNova and cut flower nursery Eyco.
Group photo at Florensis
"The companies we visited are all ambitious companies," says Stefan. "Most of them have concrete plans to invest in new initiatives, many choosing modern tunnel greenhouses with sturdy metal constructions, screens and integrated ventilation." Portugal also has an excellent growing climate, with groundwater that is exceptionally clean virtually everywhere (EC of 0.2 is not uncommon). On the other hand, moving to Portugal is something for the long term. The first years will not be easy, as different breeders testified. One of them even indicated that it had taken 15 years before it all went smoothly.
A first visit to Florensis was made on Friday just outside Lisbon. Florensis is also active in Africa, but regarding the laws around import of plant material, Portugal proved to be a better location for the production of the starting material of the calibrachoa. This also applies to Sjaak van Schie, neighbor of Florensis and known in Portugal under the name of Jacobus Theodorus van Schie LDA, who cultivates the starting material for the hydrangeas. The primary reason to open a branch here, however, is not because of regulation, but because it's very sunny. Thanks to the Mediterranean climate, the supply of plants can be spread out over the year, so much so that a year-round supply is possible.
On the way to Albufeira, on the southern coast about three hours south of Lisbon, winegrower Jaap Honekamp has his vineyards. This former resident of Amsterdam now produces organic wine in the Algarve. Fruitadivina is another Dutch company in Portugal, and is led by growers from Zeeland. It has grown into a 140-hectare producer of soft fruit with a focus on raspberries. These are grown in plastic tunnels and in the high season up to 300 people can pick berries at the same time.
Jaap in his winery
Amigo - in Portugal Viveiro Amigo Plantas - keeps busy with the propagation of succulents. The cultivated acreage already covers 19 hectares, but succulents are selling so well there is still demand for more capacity. That is why a greenhouse is currently being built, a project that is personally supervised by company manager Jan.
Then two companies were on the list, AltaNova and Eyco. The first grows a significant amount of potted plants at three locations in the Netherlands and in Portugal (Bougainvillea, Cytisus, Hibiscus, Jasminum polyantum, Stephanotis floribunda, Ceanothus and more). The plan is to invest heavily in the company at the end of this year, to build a new greenhouse and to refurbish the cultivation floors. Agapanthus nursery Eyco from Pijnacker is the company of Danny and Bianca van Eijk, where the sunny and dry southern Portuguese weather significantly prolongs the availability of the flowers throughout the year.
At Sjaak van Schie's company
TJO regularly organizes excursions, including foreign trips. After Spain and England, Portugal was the destination of the third edition of 'Gardens at ...' International. Stefan does not know where the next trip is going, but that there is a follow-up is obvious. "Organizing a trip like this requires a long preparation, but the nice reactions from the members and the positive feedback from the companies after the visits gives us energy to think about a destination for 2019. On the way back we already speculated about the destination of the next trip."
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