"A time to never forget!" This is how Renzo Grootscholten described his internship at Bevofarms in Canada. In February, Renzo started his 3rd-year internship for the horticulture and agri-business study in Delft and left for Canada for five months to work at Bevofarms.
He could have also done this in the Netherlands, but, in his own words, he was always convinced that he wanted to do something like this abroad at an age when it was still easy to do so. "You are still free to do this kind of thing at this age. Bevofarms jumped out at me, so I got in touch with Peter Kuijvenhoven, and he said there was still research I could do and that they had a room for me. That was the deciding factor to get on the plane and go."
Young enthusiasm in Canada
Bevofarms is a large propagator in Vancouver, operating around 45 hectares of greenhouses, and depending on the season, about 150 to 200 people work there.
"At home, we grow radishes, so you have a single crop on 18 hectares. At Bevofarms, they had 50 crops, so that was really cool for me to see. You come into contact with so many different crops, and that is exactly what you want as a horticulture student. It is an ambitious company that gave me the freedom to grow," says Renzo.
Every six months, the company gets two new interns, this time Renzo and Rick, who work on research projects for the company. The interns can be students from all over the world, just like one of their current head growers and former intern from Brazil.
"The enthusiasm that those students bring with them is also noticeable in our team. They really pull together. That young enthusiasm is something that we really appreciate here. A few of the current head growers were also interns, and they just bring so much innovation with them," says Peter Kuijvenhoven of Bevofarms.
Internship at Bevofarms
Before the internship started, a team and plan were put in place, with activities related to water and climate as its main objective. Furthermore, just like the head grower, the interns were given a second task, which this time had to do with research into LED light in climate chambers, a request from the head growers.
"We already had an idea of how that could work, but nothing had been proven yet. We had already looked up a lot of information, but there were many different results from comparable research with other plant breeders. That is why we wanted to do it at our own location so that we'd know better what suits our specific situation best."
The question was as follows; 'what kind of response does a plant give for different day lengths in relation to LED light in climate chambers, specifically for tomatoes and peppers.' This question was then split up; Is there an effect with 8, 10, 12, or 14 hours of day length? Is there an effect of LED light with or without far-red, and is that necessary? And does the variation of plants influence the activity?
"The previous interns started this research by looking at the difference in germination rate between seeds in the greenhouse and what the pros and cons would be of using a climate chamber during this process. That research has now been tested again and was expanded by Renzo and Rick," says Peter.
Light intensity and day length
Renzo's part of the research was in regard to influences of light intensity and day length on the cultivation of young tomato and bell pepper plants in a vertical farming environment, climate chamber, and how to achieve the first phase of propagation in this.
"Two trials were set up for this with tomatoes and bell peppers from sowing to finishing. The plants were first placed in a climate chamber, and after planting in rockwool blocks, they were put in the greenhouse under the same conditions. The control group was grown entirely in the greenhouse. We looked at three different day lengths and three different light intensities in the climate chamber and then had four treatments per crop for peppers and tomatoes. Intermediate measurements were made for germination percentage and uniformity, and the final stand measurements involved plant height, stem thickness, number of leaves below the split and above the split, fresh weight, and plant area. We did see very good results for peppers, with a 15% higher germination rate. For tomatoes, this was 5 to 10%," says Renzo.
Based on the results, Bevofarms has decided to install climate chambers next December.
During the next internship period, the company will again receive two students from the Netherlands, who will this time conduct research into the design of the climate chambers based on efficiency, uniformity, irrigation, and quality.
The world is so much bigger
But it wasn't only the work experience and research that made Renzo's Canada adventure worthwhile. Canada itself was also quite an experience for him.
"Learning and growing in an international environment was perhaps the most valuable thing for me. You learn that horticulture is so much more than just what we see in the Netherlands. For myself, as someone from the Westland, it was easy to think that the Netherlands and the Westland are 'top of the bill' in horticulture, and I still believe that, but it is not everything, there is so much more in the world to open your eyes to. In Canada, they do a lot. At Bevofarms, there are up to 200 employees during busy periods, so they can definitely give Dutch horticultural a run for its money."
Peter understands this sentiment all too well since he had his internship in Canada at a young age as well.
"I know how important it is to see how big the world is, and I learned a lot from my time here and brought it back to the Netherlands. After that, I started working at my dad's business, even though I might have also wanted to go back to Canada a bit. When I was older, that opportunity came along again when Bevofarms suddenly crossed my path. Now I own it, and I'm glad I decided to go for it this time around because it was the decision I ever made."
The next chapter
And as quickly as things started, they have now come to an end. Renzo's internship is over, and he will begin the final year of his studies in September. But it is clear that this has definitely been a time to remember.
"We really made something that we can be proud of, and I'm really glad I went to Canada. Yet it felt a bit strange, packing your bags on Sunday and walking around the company grounds one last time. You think, 'I've worked so hard here over the past five months.' Now that chapter is really over, and it's on to the next one," Renzo concludes.
For more information:
Bevo Farms Ltd.
22350 - Hwy 10
Canada V2Y 2R1
Tel.: +1 604 888 0420