Knowledge is transforming Mexican horticulture

15-01-2020    12:30   |    Greentech

Greenhouse horticulture in Mexico has grown enormously in recent years. Intensive knowledge sharing between Dutch and Mexican companies, knowledge and government institutions played a key role in this.

Mexican horticulture is experiencing an upsurge: in 2003 protected horticulture covered 132 hectares. In 2018 that area had increased to 51,000 hectares or almost 400 times as much! The greenhouses mainly grow tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers, the majority for export to the US and Canada. Major protected horticulture areas are situated in the states of Sinaloa, Jalisco and Michoacán, where mostly low-tech systems such as shadow nets and macro tunnels are used. The state of Querétaro, situated at a relatively high elevation with colder temperatures, mainly has greenhouses of a mid to high-tech character. In recent years, several Dutch companies have also established themselves around the city of Querétaro that have actively contributed to the development of this sector.

Knowledge of high-tech horticulture

Finding suitable workers for Mexican high-tech horticulture is often a challenge. Young people are increasingly disinterested in the agricultural sector and Mexican education provides agronomists with basic knowledge, but generally no knowledge of issues such as data, climate control, fertilization, etc. that is necessary for high-tech horticulture. Dutch companies and institutions do have this knowledge and are very active in meeting the demand in collaboration with Mexican partners.

Next Generation Growing

A good example is the Dutch business consortium Horticonnect that consists of Dutch companies that provide complementary greenhouse technology and services to Mexican growers, and jointly promote ‘Next Generation Growing’ in Mexico. Plant Empowerment plays a central role in this. “Plant Empowerment is an integrated approach to sustainable greenhouse production”, says Natascha Faessen, marketing specialist at consortium member Hoogendoorn Growth Management. “The basis of this approach is to stimulate and support the natural growing power of plants by creating optimum conditions for them. Ultimately, this also contributes to a more efficient and therefore more sustainable use of scarce resources such as water, energy, minerals and fertilizers.”

Horticonnect works closely with the Mexican company United Farms in promoting ‘Next Generation Growing’. The company manages 65 hectares of greenhouses in Querétaro. Robert van der Geest, Chief Operating Officer at United Farms: “We have set up sensors, cameras, computers and screen installations from Dutch companies on ½ a ha of greenhouse. Data is collected continuously there and shared with our Dutch partners. In addition, there is weekly contact with a crop adviser from Koppert, who analyses the data from the Netherlands and, based on this, proposes adjustments in the field of climate control, fertilisation or water supply. We also meet with all partners once a month to determine our strategy". Improvements in quality and productivity can already be observed.

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