• Thu. Sep 22nd, 2022

Finnish lettuce greenhouse uses wood waste from industry to heat the greenhouse

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Jun 21, 2022

In the southwest of Finland, about 160 km from Helsinki, lies Turku. With approximately 175,000 inhabitants, it is the fifth largest city in the country. You will find several greenhouses near this town, including DeliVerde, which specializes in lettuce and fine herbs. “We’re not the biggest and we don’t want to be. We aspire to be the best,” sales manager Liisa Lindroth says confidently.

Liisa Lindroth

Finland is almost self-sufficient in lettuce and herbs. “It’s not at all easy to grow lettuce and herbs in our climate. It involves a lot, but thanks to their years of experience, Finns have become specialists. Finland’s greenhouse area, for example, is larger than that of Denmark, Sweden and Norway combined, and Finnish consumers like locally grown food If supermarkets promote Danish lettuce or Polish tomatoes, success is by no means case guaranteed The domestic market is very receptive to local producers.

“Although, with a population of just 5.5 million, it’s not very big. It’s also partly why we hardly export. Of course, it would be interesting to “export, and Finland’s own products will surely attract foreign customers. But our company never imports herbs either. This would harm our business. Finns would not understand why we market imported products under our brand. If we have a slightly lower harvest, so be it. Our customers know that horticulture, even though we control a lot of conditions in the greenhouse, is not something where everything always goes according to plan,” says Liisa.

DeliVerde cultivates an elaborate range of herbs

In addition to herbs, they also grow varieties of lettuce, such as Salanova

Roses with lettuce and herbs
Her partner, Hannu, started her career working in a rose nursery. “My family had a small vegetable business. When I was young, I didn’t want anything to do with the sector, nor did I want to marry a farmer. It was too hard work and dependent on the weather. But hasn’t that changed I was an IT specialist for 20 years in large IT companies I met my husband in elementary school His parents had a body repair shop – the first of its kind in Finland. But Hannu wanted to be a grower and was a rose grower in a nursery before starting his own business. “In my spare time, I always helped him with sales and administration. And after my career in IT, I started working full time as a sales manager in the cultivation company.”

Today, roses have given way to lettuce and herbs in the 2-hectare greenhouse. They also grow seasonal vegetables outdoors on three hectares. “We started small and we still are. Hannu was a good rose grower, but he was disappointed that he didn’t have and couldn’t find the money to invest in a big nursery. Fortunately. Because many Finnish rose growers have stopped due to fierce competition from Dutch companies, among others. We first switched to lettuce and added herbs to it in the late 1990s. Hannu and our son Eero, now CEO, are the growers. My daughter-in-law and I take care of the sale. “, Lisa said.

The best restaurant suppliers
“Many Finnish lettuce growers grow smaller 100g varieties, which are very popular here. But we are small, so we had to do things differently. We had to find our identity and gain a place in the market. large heads of lettuce. We give them time to grow slowly, so they are crunchy, of excellent quality, keep well and are very tasty. Our herbs are also generally larger than those of our colleagues. This quality has caught the attention of high-end restaurants, and today we supply several high-end restaurants in Finland,” continues Liisa.

Lettuce in a resealable plastic bag and then in a box

Rocket in Ziplock packaging

Follow the latest trends
According to her, supplying lettuce, herbs and other vegetables to the best Finnish chefs is not extremely profitable. But it gives DeliVerde prestige and new ideas. “As I said, we don’t want the biggest volumes, but we are committed to quality and want to keep up with and even stay ahead of the latest trends. We can do that by working with top chefs who have a good view of trends and even helping to determine them.However, the majority of our production is for the retail and hospitality industry.

“We deliver direct, especially in and around Turku, and through wholesalers. We supply the two major Finnish retailers, S-group and K-group. We are not a big company, but we try to be profitable. relationships with our customers, who greatly appreciate our product. But rising costs make things harder, of course. In the food business, passing those costs down the chain takes time, and with inflation, people have less money to spend,” says Liisa.

DeliVerde heats greenhouses with oat and furniture industry waste

In the summer they also grow lettuce outside

Finns prefer local products
The fact that Finns prefer local products benefits companies like DeliVerde. “Here, local sometimes means 1,000 km products. Finland is a big country. For example, we transport our lettuces and herbs to Lapland. What we harvest in the afternoon, they have it on the shelf in the Far North the next day.

In Finland, social motivations and environmental issues partly drive the preference for local culture. “Importing lettuce from Spain doesn’t work here. People see on TV how African seasonal workers work and live there, and what happens to all that plastic in the greenhouses? These things affect people’s habits. “Finns buy. They know that local retailers don’t do business with companies that don’t scrupulously follow social and environmental legislation. Producers have to show that they pay people at least minimum wage,” Liisa says.

“They must also comply with the law regarding working hours, sick leave and holidays. We do all of this – and more – and people know it. For this reason, we have a good reputation in this field, we so we have no problem finding We have about 50 permanent employees as well as seasonal workers We have employed Ukrainians for several years We have told them that they can bring their families So since the beginning of the war , we welcomed about 20 women and children.”

ICE lettuce is the most popular
DeliVerde grows a rich assortment of lettuces, including glazed lettuce, salanova, Lollo Rosso, oakleaf and romaine. “Glazed lettuce is the most popular variety in Finland. But the varieties have changed somewhat over time. We also make salad mixes – for retail and restaurants – and ICElettuce is the key ingredient in these ready-to-eat products. fresh and crispy,” explains the sales manager. The Turku-based company sells most of its herbs in jars but pre-cuts these products for the catering industry. “We have coriander, mint, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary and dill, which Finns love with their fish dishes. Herbs do especially well during the many spring breaks. But in the past, sales were more fluid. there are a lot of competitors and the market is becoming saturated.”

sawdust for heating
In summer, on days when it is too hot for lettuce, the greenhouses are cooled. “Naturally, we then grow long-day varieties. We have to adapt to the climatic conditions. We will soon visit GreenTech again in the Netherlands to follow the latest developments in breeding,” says Liisa. In winter, the snow accumulates on the roof, but the cultivation continues. They don’t need to clear that snow. “Heating the greenhouse just melts it. The heating system is housed in a separate building.”

“The boiler is multifunctional and uses wood waste from the furniture industry or oat waste. We work in a very environmentally friendly way. We recycle 100% of the water we use in the greenhouses, and the plants grow as much as possible with natural light. and plant waste from the greenhouses is composted and then added to the soil for outdoor cultivation. Finnish consumers attach great importance to the environmental component. And we are happy to welcome them”, concludes Liisa.

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