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25.01.2021
Skadi Menne
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Inter­na­tio­nal Year for Fruit and Vege­ta­bles 2021

The year 2021 has been decla­red the offi­cial year for fruit and vege­ta­bles by the Food and Agri­cul­tu­re Orga­niz­a­ti­on of the United Nati­ons (FAO). In an inter­view with Ceci­lia Luet­ge­bru­ne, Mana­ging Direc­tor of our Euro­pean indus­try asso­cia­ti­on Gro­wing Media Euro­pe AISBL, we were able to cla­ri­fy what is behind this and how we as sub­stra­te manu­fac­tu­rers can make a signi­fi­cant contribution.

Ska­di Men­ne: Thank you very much, Ceci­lia, for taking the time. The year 2021 has been decla­red the offi­cial year for fruit and vege­ta­bles. What does that mean exactly?

Ceci­lia Luet­ge­bru­ne: The back­ground of this initia­ti­ve is the aim to rai­se our awa­reness of the important role of fruit and vege­ta­bles and the need to ensu­re our respec­ti­ve sup­ply. Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, we are still far from that on a glo­bal sca­le. That is why this year atten­ti­on will for examp­le be drawn to redu­cing food loss and food was­te amongst the sup­ply chain. Over­all, the aim is to pro­mo­te more sus­taina­bi­li­ty in the pro­duc­tion and con­sump­ti­on of fruit and vege­ta­bles. To this end, several events and acti­vi­ties around the world will be orga­ni­zed throughout 2021.

Ska­di Men­ne: What many peop­le don’t know is how important the sub­stra­te sec­tor is in this ...

Ceci­lia Luet­ge­bru­ne: Very true. The sub­stra­te indus­try alrea­dy con­tri­bu­tes signi­fi­cant­ly to healt­hi­er and at the same time more sus­tainab­le food pro­duc­tion. More and more fruits and vege­ta­bles are grown in gro­wing media, as they are a key enab­ler for suc­cess­ful har­ve­sts. Given the incre­a­sing glo­bal demand for healt­hy food, the sub­stra­te indus­try is also beco­m­ing incre­a­singly important.

Ska­di Men­ne: Plea­se exp­lain to us what the advan­ta­ges are for gro­wing vege­ta­bles and fruit.

Ceci­lia Luet­ge­bru­ne: Basi­cal­ly, it’s about the com­bi­na­ti­on of gro­wing in a green­house and using gro­wing media. The green­house pro­vi­des a pro­tec­ted envi­ron­ment for the cul­ti­va­ti­on of vege­ta­bles and fruit. Unfa­voura­ble wea­ther con­di­ti­ons have a lower or no impact and the risk of soil-bor­ne plant dise­a­ses, which typi­cal­ly occur in inten­si­ve out­door cul­ti­va­ti­on methods, is also con­si­der­ab­ly lower.

Ska­di Men­ne: And what are the advan­ta­ges of the sub­stra­te in this context?

Ceci­lia Luet­ge­bru­ne: Gro­wing vege­ta­bles and fruit in gro­wing media allows for con­troll­ab­le and pre­dic­ta­ble results. The­re are sim­ply fewer fail­u­res – crop safe­ty is the buz­z­word here. In addi­ti­on, the use of fer­ti­li­sers, pesti­ci­des and water per har­ve­s­ted unit can be signi­fi­cant­ly redu­ced. Pro­tec­ted gro­wing in gro­wing media has a much lower land-use foot­print – that way saving valu­able ara­ble land – than con­ven­tio­nal hor­ti­cul­tu­re in the open field. Ano­t­her big advan­ta­ge for gro­wers is the fact that less labour is requi­red and that the working con­di­ti­ons are friend­lier at the same time. Just one examp­le: vege­ta­bles and fruits that have to be hand-picked on the kne­es in an open field, can be har­ve­s­ted stan­ding up and pro­tec­ted from wind and in a greenhouse.

Ska­di Men­ne: Does this also app­ly to coun­tries with dif­fi­cult geo­gra­phi­cal and cli­ma­tic conditions?

Ceci­lia Luet­ge­bru­ne: In many cases, the use of gro­wing media is also a step for­ward for regi­ons whe­re cli­ma­te con­di­ti­ons make out­door cul­ti­va­ti­on impos­si­ble and/or eco­no­mi­c­al­ly not via­ble. This is whe­re using gro­wing media as water reser­voir or soil con­di­tio­ner come into play.

Ska­di Men­ne: Thank you very much for your time! We are loo­king for­ward to the new year and are exci­ted to see what deve­lo­p­ments we will be able to witness.