Arcadia is currently building a second, even newer greenhouse by the still-new greenhouse on Hoefweg in De Lier. The greenhouse area at this location will thus grow to over eight hectares. These are uncertain times, but the expansion was already drawn and planned several years ago. Moreover, Bert van Ruijven and colleagues do not shy away from a few metres of glass; after all, with six locations and 25 hectares of production, this is not their first construction project.
In view of current energy prices, the costs obviously get extra attention, while an increasingly sustainable way of growing is also key. And that now rings true for Arcadia, and for any horticulturist for that matter. “In chrysanthemums in particular, we are seeing an accelerated switch to LED”, says Bert. “You certainly don’t welcome the costs of that, but with today's energy prices, you have to do it.”
LED today is the screen of yesterday
Something similar was true of screen systems in the past. Nowadays, hardly any greenhouse is built without one, but until about the mid-1980s, people often got no further than ‘pulling some foil’ to keep the heat in, and to darken for chrysanthemums. A series of crises in the 1970s and 1980s then created a similar push for the climate screen as today's energy prices do for lighting, and it was then that the installation of (climate) screens began to really take off.
So says Piet Rensen of Peter Dekker Installaties (PDI), who comes on site to inspect the progress of construction work and reminisces with Bert. Piet has been with PDI since almost the beginning of the company. First as a subcontractor with a partner, and later as foreman. In recent years, Piet has become responsible for planning. Bert has been a customer from the very beginning and now, on the cusp of his retirement (Piet is 67), he has come to install another (double) screen.
“The first screen was a tyvek, a silver-grey dark screen”, says Pete. “That was the successor to the foil, so to speak, but of course a lot has developed over the years since. One of the things that PDI always had (and still has) a good grip on was the pull-wire system. Due to rust and intensive use, the first systems with the old iron wire often literally had a kink in them. We developed it so that problems were less common and if something did break, we made sure it got fixed.”
Bert can confirm that. As already noted, he has built more greenhouses over the years, all expansions and removals added together adds up to quite a lot. “Therefore, in terms of construction, electricity, climate and all other work, I have done business with just about every major party at one time or another, but in terms of screens, I have always been with PDI. Nothing crazy in terms of prices, a warranty is a warranty and if something breaks down, they are definitely quick to respond.”
Another double screen is being hung in this latest new construction, but crisis is not just looming in production. The installer still has quite a few projects on lined up for this year, but towards next year, the uncertainty is increasing. “Companies that have a buffer can be convinced”, says Piet, “but you're not going to spend your last pennies on it now. We see that throughout horticulture and also in chrysanthemums.”
There is plenty of experimentation with ‘efficiency’: with less SON-t/more LED, but also in the cultivation itself and on every imaginable input. With every little step, you make a small sacrifice, while of course, production and quality cannot be compromised. However, as long as the flowers are paid for, the sector keeps going. Especially as far as Bert and Piet are concerned.
For screens I don't need to look further
At the moment, Arcadia is busy constructing a second, even newer greenhouse alongside the existing one on de Hoefweg in De Lier. As a result, the surface area under glass at this location will increase to more than eight hectares. Although these are stressful and uncertain times, the extension had already been drawn up and planned several years ago. Besides, Bert van Ruijven and co. aren’t afraid of a few metres of glass; after all, with currently 6 locations and 25 hectares of production, this isn’t their first build.
Set against the backdrop of the current energy prices, the cost aspect is obviously of particular concern, while increasingly sustainable methods of cultivation are also paramount. And, for Arcadia, – and for any horticulturist for that matter – the second of those two statements is no longer an empty slogan. "In chrysanthemums, the main development we can observe is an accelerated switch to LED," says Bert. “While you’re not exactly looking forward to the cost, you simply have to grin and bear it in the light of the energy prices we’re experiencing these days."
LED is today what a screen was in the past
Something similar happened with screen installations in the past. Nowadays, hardly any greenhouses are built without one, but, up until the mid-1980s, it was often a case of doing no more than 'pulling across a bit foil' to keep the heat in and, in the case of chrysanthemums, to provide some shade. In a similar way to how the energy prices we are seeing today are causing growers to review their lighting facilities, a series of crises in the 1970s and 1980s saw a similar push towards the inclusion of a climate screen, and it was back then that the installation of (climate) screens began to make serious headway.
This is what Piet Rensen of Peter Dekker Installaties (PDI) tells us, as he comes on site to inspect the progress of the construction work and starts reminiscing with Bert. Piet has been with PDI almost since the company first began. Initially as a subcontractor together with a business partner, and, later, as a contractor. In recent years, Piet has assumed responsibility for planning. Bert has been a customer from the very beginning, and now, on the eve of his retirement (Piet is 67), he is coming to hang a (double) cloth.
"The first cloth was made from Tyvek, a dark silver-grey cloth," says Piet. "This was, as it were, the successor to foil, but since then there have, of course, been many developments over the years. One of the things that PDI always had (and still has) going for it was the pull-wire system. Due to rust and intensive use, the first systems with the old iron wire were often, literally, a hitch in the cable. We proceeded to develop it in such a way that issues became less frequent, and if something did break, we'd make sure it was fixed."
Bert can attest to that. As already stated, he has built more than one greenhouse over the years, and all his extensions and relocations now amount to quite a tally. "Which is why, at one time or another, I have done business with just about all major stakeholders in the field of construction, electricity, climate and all other activities; however, when it comes screens, I have always stuck with PDI. No fooling around with prices, a guarantee is a guarantee and, if something breaks down, they’re there to help you before you know it."
In this latest new build, a double cloth is also being hung; however, the crisis is not only threatening production. Although the installer has quite a few projects on the go this year, uncertainty is increasing as we move towards next year. "Companies that have money in their pockets are eager," says Piet, "but that doesn’t necessarily mean you're going to be spending your last few pennies on it just now. We’re seeing this throughout the horticulture sector, and chrysanthemums are no exception."
There’s plenty of experimenting with 'cost-effective' solutions, such as less SON-t/more LED, as well as in cultivation itself and on all conceivable inputs. With each step, people are making small sacrifices, but production and quality should never, of course, be compromised. However, as long as the prices for flowers are good, the sector will keep on going. Either way, it won’t be Bert and Piet's fault if it doesn’t!