Skadi Menne

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.