THE PRODUCTION PROCESS
Expert practice divides the agricultural year into two production cycles. The first cycle runs from January to June, while the second cycle spans the period from July to December. For some vegetables (tomatoes, aubergines, etc.), we practise a prolonged production system with a single cycle running from March to November.
The production process is made up of several distinct stages, namely:
1. Seedling production:
Seedling production constitutes the first stage of the production process. It is carried out in a specially designed space, made up of 8 distinct compartments, perfectly separated from one another. This compartimentalization is necessary in order to insure a differentiated control of the environmental factors (depending on species, age, etc.).
In these compartments, we maintain an optimal temperature level at all times and ensure the necessary amount of light. During the periods with insufficient natural light, there is the possibility of supplementing it with artificial light. Thus, by using the most important energy resources (heat and light) and adequate fertilization programmes, we ensure a proper development of the seedlings. This way, we can influence the plants' production potential throughout their life.
Within 4-6 weeks of seeding, the seedlings are prepared for transplanting into the greenhouse.
Before planting, the production space needs to be prepared. The work normally starts around 3-4 weeks before and is made up of several steps, namely: greenhouse disinfection, foil layer installation, placing the organic substratum sacks, adapting the drip-irrigation system and cutting out the holes in the sacks.
18,000 cucumber seedlings or 25,000 tomato seedlings are planted on one hectare.
The technology we use is a revolutionary one in the field of greenhouse vegetables.
Following experiments conducted with the help of these new technologies, we have noticed an increase in production efficiency and product quality.
Thus, beginning with 2006, we have decided to extend the application of the new organic substratum to our whole production capacity.
3. Plant growth and development:
The duration of the process differs from one species to another. In order to obtain the cucumber crop, we need approximately 4-5 weeks; in the case of tomato crops, this period can stretch up to 8-9 weeks. For a natural development, cucumbers need a thermal threshold of 16-18ºC during the night; in the case of tomatoes, the temperatures can be 2-4ºC lower.
During winter, thermal energy consumption can account for approximately 60% of total costs. For this reason, we make sure that our greenhouses are insulated as well as possible at all times.
Although production costs differ from one season to another, our purpose is to ensure production continuity.
During the fructification process, optimal pollination conditions must be ensured. In the past, this used to be done manually, with the help of a pipette. Today, however, the whole process is carried out by using bumblebees, specially acquired for this purpose. This way, each flower is pollinated. One hive contains approximately 80 bumblebees; 4-5 hives are needed for one hectare. Bumblebees pollinate a number of about 1,000,000 tomato flowers per hectare.
The drip-irrigation system ensures that each plant gets the substances it needs for a harmonious development and for strengthening its immunity to diseases and pests every day.
The final process before the preparation for the actual sale is the harvesting.
The crop is harvested twice or three times a week. Harvesting frequency depends on the biorhythm reached during the fructification process and on the size of the crop.
In the case of cucumbers, the crop on one hectare can vary between 3 and 14 tons/week, depending on the time of the year and the age of the plants.
For tomatoes, one harvest can mean around 8 tons (approximately 70,000 fruits) per hectare during their peak period.
The maximum quantity of vegetables that a worker can harvest in one day is of 1,000 kg.
The harvested vegetables are placed into plastic crates. Then, with the help of tractors, the vegetables coming from the greenhouse are transported into the sorting and packaging hall.
5. Sale preparation:
After a period of sustained effort - 8 weeks in the case of cucumbers and 12 weeks in the case of tomatoes -, the first finished products reach the gate of the sorting and packaging hall. The first crops are obtained in March, the whole process going on until the end of November.
Here, our products are carefully checked, sorted, and packaged in such a way as to be able to meet our customers' most demanding expectations.