The Dutch seed company Bakker Brothers has launched a number of pilot companies in the Middle East and Africa. The company is increasingly focused on training growers in developing areas. "Often governments are only focused on food aid", says Philip Immerzeel, Advisor for Svensson in the South African city of Pretoria. "But by teaching people proper cultivation, you achieve much more."
"Good food starts with high-quality seeds," says Immerzeel. "With the right methods and techniques African growers can cultivate good varieties and produce year-round, to supply food to the local population. That is a step towards self-reliance. And it is necessary in order to become independent from imports and seasonal cultivation."
Bakker Brothers, founded in 1928 by Arie, Gerrit and Willem Bakker, is a seed company in Noord-Scharwoude, the Netherlands that traditionally exported seeds and has now grown into a seed cultivation, production and distribution company of beans, corn and most recently (greenhouse) vegetable seeds. In 2004, Bakker Brothers became a subsidiary of Klein Karoo Seed Marketing in South Africa, which is dedicated to research & development.
Pilot greenhouse in Bapsfontein
Four years ago, Bakker Brothers built a pilot greenhouse in Bapsfontein together with Dutch suppliers. "Substrate cultivation is applied here," says Immerzeel. "This means that the plants grow on coco and rock wool instead of in the ground.” Karoo Research teaches growers and students the right climate control techniques and educates them on year-round, controlled cultivation in greenhouses.
"It is important to breed locally as there are many factors that affect the crops, including things like highly fluctuating temperatures, diseases and soil composition. says Immerzeel. Only the best varieties are selected." The pilot greenhouse belongs to the SMART-project, a collaboration of, among others, Greenport Holland, Wageningen University and Klein Karoo Seed Marketing.
A mild climate transition
The pilot greenhouse is located on a high plateau, so it's hot during the day and at night heating is necessary to rid the greenhouse of moisture. Svensson’s Harmony 4145 screen was installed to save energy but also to achieve mild climate transitions. To heat the 1500 square meter greenhouse in the future, solar cells will be used; the generation of electricity will then take place using photovoltaic cells. "Unfortunately, the plastic on the roof was recently destroyed by large hailstones during a cyclone," Immerzeel explains. "As soon as the new foil from Hazerswoude has arrived and is back on the roof of the greenhouse, the Harmony screen will go in."
World Food problem
Bakker Brothers has breeding stations in the Netherlands, Jordan, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and ten pilot stations around the world. The ambitions of Bakker Brothers are not insignificant: contributing to solving the world food concernsproblem. Immerzeel fully agrees with this: "We need to shift the focus from food to nutritional value. People especially need healthy food, which is available locally. With controlled cultivation in greenhouses, year-round production is achievable."