Q&A with Greenhouse Expert Theo Van de Sande


Courtesy of Illumitex

Here at Illumitex we pride ourselves in not only our products, but our expert staff as well.

Theo Van de Sande, our Senior Greenhouse Consultant, sat down with me to answer a few questions over greenhouse farming.

But before we give you tips from a pro, a little background on Theo –

Theo is a third generation greenhouse grower from the Netherlands with over 30 years of experience and expertise in the field. After emigrating to America, he was among the first to introduce greenhouse crops in substrate. Since then, Theo has been a horticultural consultant, helping manage over 10 separate greenhouse productions all exceeding over 100 acres.

Now to hear from the expert himself!

What are the best crops to grow in a greenhouse?

Theo: As a greenhouse operator you choose crops that are in demand, crops that grow well in your climate conditions, crops that do well in your greenhouse facilities. If you have older facilities with little or no technology, you grow lower value crops rather than if you were in a high-tech greenhouse.

In the old days most growers were adjusting crops to their facilities. Nowadays, growers are choosing a crop like tomato, cucumber, or bell pepper then choose the type of greenhouse technology that best fits their crop choice.

What is the best type of soil to use?

Theo: There are only a handful growers that still grow in soil, but nowadays it is grown in substrate. Cocofiber, rockwool, peat moss, perlite or mixtures of different media. The choice of substrate growing media is dependent on the grower’s preference, crop type, water quality, size of irrigation system, and price.

Importance of choosing the right lights for your greenhouse crops?

Theo: Growers are in business to grow the highest possible yield with the best possible quality. So it is very Important to choose the right light for your crop and greenhouse lights are one of the largest investments a grower makes. Choosing the right lights for your crops can and will make big financial differences, but every grower’s situation is different – that’s why it is so very important for growers to educate themselves before making a decision. Most greenhouse research facilities and other institutions are doing trials with different lights and light spectrums – that’s where growers usually go first. Most light fixture suppliers have in house know how, they can and will use. In most cases the grower should do his own trial, in his own growing conditions, before making the final decision.

What is the best season(s) for growing greenhouse crops?

Theo: Since we have today’s greenhouse technologies and research data, we can grow quality greenhouse crops year-round. The importance of greenhouse growers is that they can supply the market year round with a consistent quantity and quality. Greenhouse farming is better for your labor management and cash flow. Plus, if you are supplying the market all year your buyers don’t have to go find the product somewhere else when you’re not in production.

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