28 Oct 2021
Rijk Zwaan’s e-learning programme in India: “Helping growers to get the most out of our vegetable seeds”
Urbanisation and a rapidly growing middle class are two of the trends that are increasing the pressure on the world’s current food systems. High-quality vegetable seeds and tailor-made solutions such as indoor growing have a vital role to play in the long-term availability of fresh fruit and vegetables. Satish Kumar and Praneet Sharma from Rijk Zwaan India share details of how they engage with Indian growers to provide technical support and cultivation advice.
We see three major trends related to food production and consumption in many Asian countries, and India is no exception. The first trend is the growing world population. In fact, India is expected to be one of the countries with the biggest population growth. The other two trends are the shift towards living in urban areas and the growth of the middle class. All of these trends are further increasing the pressure on governments, social infrastructure and supply chains, and driving demand for the year-round availability of high-quality fresh fruit and vegetables.
Benefits of indoor growing
One response to these global trends is to switch to more protected cultivation methods. “Many growers in India are switching from outdoor crops to indoor ones, and not only because of the challenging climate conditions for outdoor growing,” says Praneet. Indoor growing offers many benefits for growers, Satish explains: “First of all, indoor growing is more sustainable. That’s because the disease pressure is lower compared to outdoors, so fewer chemicals are needed and it’s easier for growers to work according to Integrated Pest Management principles. Another key advantage is the higher yield and more stable production, plus there is less consumption of water and other inputs.”
Although the indoor segment is expanding, the concept of indoor growing is still relatively new to many growers in India. In 2020, Rijk Zwaan therefore introduced a new e-learning programme for growers to help them get the most out of the company’s vegetable seeds – starting with cucumbers. “The e-learning programme enables Indian cucumber growers to further improve their technical knowledge, especially about indoor cultivation,” adds Praneet. It offers information throughout the whole crop cycle, from sowing to harvesting, and includes videos, articles, animations and webinars.
“Rijk Zwaan has been sharing technical knowledge about cultivation methods for many years, but now we’re also able to do so through our e-learning programme. This is perfect in large countries like India, where the huge distances make it impossible for our crop advisors to visit growers frequently,” continues Satish. After the successful introduction in India, the company now plans to expand its e-learning programmes to share knowledge more easily in other countries too.
Sustainable food systems
Besides the growers themselves, changing consumer preferences are also boosting the trend towards indoor growing. “Consumers perceive vegetables that have been grown indoors to look fresher, and are positive about less residue,” Satish and Praneet conclude.
Rijk Zwaan is working to stimulate vegetable consumption and contribute to food security worldwide, not only by developing innovative vegetable varieties as part of sustainable food systems, but also by introducing new ways to engage with growers online.