In 1998 I bought a plot of land on which I built 2 hectares of greenhouses, offices and a warehouse. My idea was to at some point add another two hectares. At the time, 2 hectares was enormous, and I thought that if we went to 4 hectares, I would make it to my pension (laughs). I was 23... In 2003 we did indeed add another 2 hectares, in 2007 we added 3 more, in 2014 another 1.6 hectares and in 2015 we added yet another 4 hectares.
FROM FATHER TO SON
Guido Quirijnen grows bell peppers of every colour in greenhouses covering 12.6 hectares in Merksplas. “My parents were horticulturalists and they grew just about everything, both in greenhouses and outside: Brussels sprouts, lettuce, gherkins, tomatoes and bell peppers. I opted to grow bell peppers because that crop appeals to me the most; I simply went with my gut. Today, you need at least 4 to 5 hectares to be a going concern. For normal bell peppers you have to work on a grand scale, but that’s not necessary for niche products such as pointed peppers.”
BELL PEPPERS NEED A LOT OF WATER
"Bell peppers need a lot of light, but not sunshine or direct light or they’ll burn. Bell pepper plants also need a lot of water. We stock rainwater in our 32,000 m³ water reservoirs. However, well water remains essential during drying periods. We always give the plants 20-30% too much water, so that all the plants get the same amount of water and no salt accumulates in the mat. Any water not absorbed by the plants is collected and reused after being purified through a filter.”
TOWARDS A DIGITAL FUTURE
“If I think of how my parents used to work and how we work now... They could barely go on holiday. Of course I have employees and a manager that I can completely rely on, but there’s the technology too. I can check everything on my phone: the temperature in the greenhouse, opening the windows or whether there’s enough water, etc. The alerts are set in such a way that we can check everything if we’re on holiday.”
FROM FIELD TO AUCTION
The harvest carts drive themselves through the greenhouses from the picking row to the processing warehouse. "We decided to entrust the sorting and packaging to the auction where all the bell peppers converge under the Flandria label. That leaves us free to focus completely on production. The next day, the bell peppers are sold at auction and the day after they are in the shops.”
Flandria bell peppers are available from Belorta and Coöperatie Hoogstraten.