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“Floaters with the right growing media is key for the lettuce industry”

As systems builders based in Horst (the Netherlands), founder and CEO of Light4food Rene van Haeff was convinced that the horizontal and vertical controlled growing systems in combination with light were to be the future solution for growing crops sustainably. Light4Food is a turnkey system builder for a wide variety of crops grown in both greenhouses and vertical farms.

“First, it is important to understand that there are many ways to grow lettuce,” says Niels Jacobs, Product Engineer & Startup Specialist at Light4Food. “So, it was already quite a search to find the right growing system to grow lettuce. Lettuce growing is made for both a horizontal farm (greenhouse) and a vertical farm. A good start is fundamental for a good result. That’s why seeding and germination take place in a germination room and subsequently, propagation can be done in the greenhouse as well as in the indoor farm,” Niels explains. “After germination, the young plants go on propagation floats inside the greenhouse or indoor farm and will stay in these floats for about 14 days”.

Niels Jacobs, the first employee of Light4Food, had already experience in engineering growing systems for strawberries and medicinal crops, as well as growing and propagation of high wire crops like tomatoes and cucumbers on stone wool growing media. In combination with an entrepreneurial mind and after meeting with Thomas Peters, Business Development Manager from Grodan, the choice to try out stone wool for growing lettuce was made. Niels: “For me, the stone wool advantages outweighed the potential challenges and I wanted to give it a try.”

The growing phases of lettuce at Light4Food
Niels explains the phases of lettuce growing at Light4Food: “The first phase of lettuce growing is seeding and germination and that takes place in the germination cells. After 2/3 days, when lettuce is germinated and root development has taken place, the plugs are placed on eb and flood beds for propagation in another climate cell or in the greenhouse. Then the second phase starts; the propagation phase. Here stone wool is an ideal product because of its water-holding capacity. Stone wool can take up as much as 90 % of its own volume in water. After 14 days the lettuce crop can be transplanted on the floating system.” Thomas adds: “In many cases when the lettuce is germinated, they will be placing the lettuce straight away on floaters in a pond, but I have to say we see a lot of diversity worldwide.”

Niels’ job is to engineer the ideal growing solution. In this, he searches for the optimal match between the components, hard- and software, needed to grow lettuce. “We’re looking to minimize the handling of the growing process, to eliminate waste, and to automate as much as possible. That, in combination with sharing our knowledge from our growing facilities, is, in the end, our added value for lettuce growers.”

Limiting handling
An example of minimizing the handling is washing the crop. Niels: “In a clean growing environment, it is not needed to wash the lettuce after harvesting. Stone wool is in that scope the ideal base for growing. It is clean and gives no dirt to the crop so that it is ready to consume. And as the product is immediately ready for consumption the consumer is ensured of a fresh product!”

Another advantage of stone wool is that it comes in all sizes and shapes however, Thomas remarks: “As standards are still not common practice, we cannot adapt our product for each and every system on the market. That’s why I value the cooperation with Light4Food so much. Together we can take the crucial steps to define the standards and to further industrialize the sustainable growing process of lettuce”. This is where the two companies have a good fit, they’re working together to innovate the current practice. Thomas: “What we now see in the trials is that float and substrate should work together as a team. If these two are perfectly matched, we get and see the best results on a deep-water culture system”.

When visiting the research locations Niels mentions the importance of a uniform crop. Thomas continues: “Uniformity is one of the unique properties of stone wool. It is an industrialized product and product quality is key and you see that immediately when looking at the crop.”

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Israel announces creation of global seed company

Two Israeli seed producers, Nirit Seeds and TomaTech, have joined forces to create Israel’s largest vegetable seed company. This synergy will enable unique seed breeding research and development that will accelerate the company’s growth in the international seed markets.

Upon completion of the merger, the company will have more than 80 employees worldwide, including molecular biologists, breeders, agronomists, and others.
The company will improve its breeding activities in Israel, Spain, Mexico and Italy, as well as significantly expand its representation in the Netherlands and North America, with a particular focus on growing vegetables in high-tech greenhouses.

Nirit Seeds is one of the most successful internationally traded tomato and pepper seed producers, investing in the development of revolutionary genetic technologies. TomaTech is one of the leading tomato seed companies in Israel, developing premium varieties, including those resistant to the dangerous Tomato Brown Ruffle Virus (ToBRFV).

The production of crop seeds is one of the most advanced and high-tech sectors in Israel. According to the Seed Department of the Federation of Israel Chambers of Commerce, seed exports currently generate $200 million in annual revenue. There are about 25 large and medium-sized companies in the local industry.

For reference. According to market research, the global vegetable seed industry is valued at $8 billion a year and is growing at a CAGR of 8%.

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Karachay-Cherkessia became one of the leaders in the production of greenhouse vegetables at the end of 2021


Greenhouse vegetable production in 2021 reached a record 1.4 million tonnes. According to the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, the leaders among the regions in this segment are the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, Lipetsk, Moscow, Kaluga, Volgograd, Novosibirsk, Saratov, Chelyabinsk regions, Krasnodar and Stavropol Territories, the Republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. These regions account for more than 60% of the total production in the country. The intensive development of greenhouse projects in our country helps to provide Russians with fresh vegetables all year round. Last year, the harvest in winter greenhouses updated the 2020 record – more than 1.4 million tons of products were received. Including the production of cucumbers amounted to at least 830 thousand tons, and tomatoes – 590 thousand tons. It is expected that by 2025 the volume of vegetable production in year-round greenhouses will be at least 1.6 million tons of vegetables.


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December: Special Year Overview

In 2022, it will be 22 year since the new millennium started. Can’t believe it? Neither can we, but it is true. Before we go there, it is time to reflect on what has happened this year. Over the next couple of weeks, we will look back at 2021 and we will highlight the most important events that impacted the industry.

New greenhouses, events, even a few shows, technical novelties, and all other relevant news will pass by, offering you something other than Covid to talk about during Christmas and New Years’.


Wish your customers Happy Holidays
This special also offers an opportunity to put your company in the spotlight with a banner in this special box. This banner can be booked until December 24 on our newsletters. For more information, feel free to send an email to: 

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