Full Service Grow Concepts

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“Every innovation leads to the next”

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How do you grow 365 days a year where the market is? Casey Houweling told us how on Skype. Over a period of ten years, he built 20 hectares of greenhouses in British Columbia, Canada. Because he was unable (then) to grow all the year round, he expanded his business with a further 50 hectares in California. It was there that he and KUBO pioneered the Ultra-Clima greenhouse concept – a greenhouse that was not just the answer to plagues of insects but also opened the door to the hostile growing climate of Utah. Now, with an 11 hectare water and energy-efficient greenhouse, he serves the Salt Lake City area ‘local-for-local’. A story of 31 years of continuous innovation, with KUBO.

“In 1985, I visited Holland to speak to all sorts of growers and to hear how they worked and with whom. It might be nice to mention that my father was an immigrant from the Netherlands who came to Canada in 1956 to grow flowers. If you want the most up-to-date know-how on market gardening, you really have to be in the Netherlands. That’s how we got in contact with KUBO. We had a good feeling about them straight away and that turned out to be justified. Since then, they’ve built greenhouses for us at 20 locations and we’re still looking at what might be done better. So I’m actually a field lab for innovation.”

The eleventh plague
“Our collaboration started at the end of the eighties when we were inundated with whitefly in California. It was so bad that we called it the ‘eleventh plague’. It meant that we had to fit screens in the ventilation windows of the greenhouses but I didn’t like the idea. Screens filter out 15% of the light and that costs you 15% of the production. They also get dirty and have to be cleaned, and they reduce ventilation. So I wanted to work with KUBO on a way of keeping insects out without any of the disadvantages. That was the start of what we now call the Ultra-Clima concept. In this, we work with an active, controlled ventilation system that uses only 4% of the screens that are usually used in a standard greenhouse. Positive pressure in the greenhouse also ensures that insects cannot fly inside through an open door. The active ventilation also enabled us to regulate the humidity in the greenhouse with cooling pads. In 2006, KUBO built the first prototype and after that every innovation led to the next. Now, all my greenhouses are Ultra-Clima and I can grow everywhere 365 days a year.”

The future of market gardening
“The great thing about the Ultra-Clima technology is that you can overcome every climate with minimal energy costs and water consumption. This means that I can continue growing even in the Californian summer, which was impossible before owing to the temperature, strong winds and 10% humidity. But what was even better is that I was able to expand into the hostile growing climate in Utah. There’s an excellent market there with Salt Lake City, and it fits the social need for ‘local-for-local’. There was a natural gas power plant a hundred kilometres to the south that produces two sorts of waste: residual heat and CO2. And I need both of those for growing. So I moved close to the power plant with 11.5 hectares of greenhouses. I now tap off the residual heat and CO2 that would otherwise disappear into the atmosphere and this supplies almost 100% of my needs. I see the future of farming as producing close to the customer with minimal use of energy, water and raw materials.”

Ultra-Clima greenhouse

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The building has been completed and this first Ultra-Clima greenhouse in Kazakhstan is a fact. Last year, the greenhouse was sold as a turnkey project, and it was named ‘Greenhouse KZ’. The project is around 9.5 hectares in size; it includes a packing hall and greenhouse, and has been built in the town of Astana for the cultivation of cucumbers and tomatoes.

In Kazakhstan, growers have to contend with harsh winters and hot summers. This client went for a greenhouse based on the Ultra-Clima concept so that it could improve its yield despite the extreme climate. This is because it is possible to create a better greenhouse climate in a greenhouse based on the Ultra-Clima concept rather than using the traditional greenhouse concept. It goes without saying that higher yields go hand in hand with higher profitability. Other advantages that the Ultra-Clima concept has to offer are maximising food safety, lower energy consumption, less CO2 emission and minimum water consumption.
Not only did KUBO deliver the entire project; ClimaConnect is also committing itself to the project by providing four years of assistance with its Full Service Grow Concept. ClimaConnect will be supporting Greenhouse KZ by deploying a cultivation consultant, and by providing quality management and a monitoring platform that ClimaConnect has developed.

We broke Russian record for growing tomatoes

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“This year we broke the Russian record for growing tomatoes and next year it will be for cucumbers”

‘If we don’t do it, someone else will do it tomorrow,’ is the motto of the young Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Lashin. And so he constantly expands his activities. From developing and selling climate computers for greenhouses to growing in his own greenhouses. And from growing himself to advising other growers about the Ultra-Clima greenhouse concept. Because this is what has suddenly made the harsh climate of Lipetsk much more productive. And this is how every time and situation offers new challenges and opportunities, as he told us on Skype.
“In 1991, following the collapse of the USSR, my father and uncle started the company FITO Agro that develops computer systems for regulating climate and irrigation in greenhouses. It went very well indeed – the computerised systems continued to get better and they sold well. By that time, I had also started to work at FITO Agro and in 2012 we realised that if we wanted further growth, we would have to export. But Russia had absolutely no reputation in the field of high-end agro technology. We could sell to Iran or Jordan but not to the US or Europe, even if our products were the best in the world.”
Record yield at sub-zero outdoor temperatures
“That was when I thought that we would have to grow for ourselves. My father thought that it was a strange idea. He said, ‘Mercedes-Benz isn’t starting a taxi company, is it?’ But I was able to convince him and together with a partner we set up Lipetsk Agro. I wanted the most advanced greenhouse straight away. When visiting a customer, I had seen a beautifully made boiler room bearing the sticker Verkade Climate, so I phoned Ronald Verkade, told him my plans, and he introduced me to KUBO. They built our first 5 hectare greenhouse in 2013 and followed this in 2014 with a second 5 hectare greenhouse, and a 17 hectare greenhouse in
2016. In 2017, we’ll be getting a 25 hectare greenhouse. So many greenhouses have never been built in such a short time in Russia. And they all use KUBO’s Ultra-Clima concept and FITO Agro’s climate computers. Our cold climate is no problem at all for Ultra-Clima which circulates heat from sunlight for energy-efficient heating. In spite of sub-zero outdoor temperatures, we achieved the highest tomato production in Russia: 92 kilos per square metre. And I know for sure that we’ll break the national record for cucumbers next year.”
Not competitors but colleagues
“It’s funny to think that Ultra-Clima was developed for a totally different climate in California. And then mostly for keeping insects outside with its semi-closed system. That part of it is less interesting for us because the critters freeze to death here. But apart from that, Ultra-Clima means high yield and low energy consumption. And that’s important for every grower, everywhere in the world! Once our first greenhouse was opened, other growers came round to take a look and were blown away. That’s how our greenhouse became KUBO’s Russian showroom and I became their agent. My share in their sales is now more than 10%. Also, I don’t regard my fellow growers in Russia as competitors – our market is enormous. When you consider that Russia has only 1,500 hectares of greenhouses and the Netherlands has 9,000 hectares, you can see that there’s plenty of space for growth!”

By way of thanks, KUBO receives Russian award

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The KUBO Group has been given a Russian award by way of saying thank you for their excellent collaboration with Russian business. On Friday 24 June, the RusPrix Award will be handed to the Westland greenhouse building company at the Palace Hotel in Noordwijk aan Zee.

KUBO projects in Russia

KUBO has both traditional and Ultra-Clima projects running in various Russian towns including Lipetsk, Balakovo, Magnitogorsk, Shakhty and Vyborzhets. There are already around 30 ha of greenhouses in Russia that feature the Ultra-Clima concept. It is a greenhouse that combines all the requirements of modern growers while managing higher yields, maximum food safety, minimum energy and water consumption, minimum CO2 emissions and improved returns.

The RusPrix Award

The key aim of the RusPrix Award is to encourage and stimulate Dutch companies, public organisations and people in politics and culture who have achieved great things for Russia. RusPrix is an initiative run by the Russian Embassy in the Netherlands. For more information about the RusPrix award, visit www.rusprixaward.nl

It is not about the data Stupid…

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Growers are actually walking sensors who continuously analyse all they can see and feel.

This was sufficient on 1 hectare. On 10+ hectare operations it is a different story. Big Data has become crucial. But if you are buried under Big Data, what do you do?
Well, it is not in the Data, but in the analysis! The infographic shows where we come from and where we are going to: a team consisting of grower/owners, crop consultants and business analysts necessary to reach future goals.ClimaConnect is supporting both growers and crop consultants to make this possible. We continuously develop smart tools to make life of the grower easier and better.