Dutch greenhouse demonstration center under construction in South Africa

On 11 May 2022, the first pile for the Horti Demo Center on the grounds of the University of Stellenbosch was symbolically driven by the handing over of a tomato plant and the cutting of a ribbon by Guido Landheer, Director General of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture and Prof. Nick Kotze and Prof. Eugene Cloete from Stellenbosch University.

Professors Nick Kotze and Eugene Cloete receive a tomato plant from Guido Landheer from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture for the construction of the new Horti Demo Center (photos included)

The necessary materials for the greenhouse of almost 3000 m2 and six meters high have already arrived in South Africa and construction has started. The goal is to plant the first tomato seedlings in early spring in South Africa.

A consortium of six Dutch companies (Delphy, Koppert, Rijk Zwaan, De Ridder, ControlUnion, Svensson), a South African company (Greener Solutions) and the University of Stellenbosch have received more than € 900,000 (R16 million) to build this greenhouse with the most advanced technology currently available in the Netherlands.

The partners share the costs, with half provided by the Dutch government and the other half by the consortium.

Prof. dr. Nick Kotze, chair of plant health for WinField United South Africa in Stellenbosch University’s Department of Agronomy, says the planned center is well ahead of the university’s current facilities for greenhouse operations and vegetable growing.

Representatives of the Dutch-South African consortium

Principles of circularity
Horti Demo Center is based on the principles of circularity: recirculation of water (the center works primarily with rainwater) and nutrients in the system. According to him, this leads to 30% savings in water and nutrients and therefore there is no longer a risk of pollution from the environment.

Inside the greenhouse, there is less chance of disease and the use of chemical plant protection products is significantly reduced. Insect nets are placed at all openings.

“For students at all levels of education, it’s important to get in touch with international technologies. It gives them a head start. I always tell my students that the experts of the future must come from within, and you can not really become an expert. Unless you have access to the relevant technology from developed countries. “

“I’m sure we can easily double the harvest”
Although he is very pleased with the center and its impact on the quality of their education, it is also intended to be a place where growers can be trained in fully automatic and climate-controlled greenhouses.

“We especially want to introduce new and small growers to the best cultivation techniques currently available in the world. I’m quite sure we can easily double the average yield for small growers. We have set ourselves the goal, and I think That we can achieve that too. “

This will also be a very good learning experience for the members of the consortium, as the focus in South African conditions will be much more on cooling the greenhouse than on heating it, as would be the case in a Dutch greenhouse.

A delegation from the Netherlands on the future location of the Horti Demo Center at Stellenbosch University

Possible location for independent testing
South Africa’s commercial vegetable sector is initially very fragmented. Here, too, benefits can be obtained by, for example, setting up independent tests to collect local and independent data on varieties for commercial seed companies.

“We can be of great value to the local vegetable sector,” says Prof. Kotze. “In addition, we can guarantee the independence of our tests.”

He also predicts that the close collaboration between researchers and the commercial sector could lead to a platform for alumni on which they can place research needs for the sector. These alumni also provide a good intermediary for students and their future employers.

For more information:
Prof. Nick Kotze
Department of Agronomy
University of Stellenbosch
Phone: +27 83 461 6670

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