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Stories - 12-01-2024

German organic growers tackle challenges by innovating

Organic cultivation has a long tradition in Germany. Fresh organic vegetables have a 9.9% market share there, which is one of the highest in Europe. Like elsewhere, German growers face increasing labour costs and climate change-related issues, but innovations are helping them to cope with these challenges. Eckhard Schaal, a Rijk Zwaan sales representative, reflects on the developments in the German organic market and explains how his team supports the country’s growers.

Thousands of organic boxes

“German organic growers were alreadydelivering box schemes in their regions some 30 years ago, well before Amazon and HelloFresh even existed – it was quite revolutionary. Nowadays, growers pack and deliver customised organic boxes to thousands of clients every week, containing not only fruit and vegetables, but also other organic products. The service is often based on data and smart software; it’s very impressive,” Eckhard states.

Innovating to face challenges

One such innovative organic grower is Hof Engelhardt, which grows a range of crops at its farm in the German village of Untermünkheim. This family business is one of Eckhard’s clients in the southwestern federal state of Baden Württemberg, where many organic growers are based. Eckhard recently visited this client together with a representative of Rijk Zwaan’s customer platform, LoveMySalad.

Hof Enghelhardt working in his greenhouse.

Extra irrigation capacity

Needless to say, the challenges in the organic market were an important topic of discussion during the visit. For example, growers have to deal with both rising labour costs and a growing shortage of skilled and motivated workers. Besides that, the effects of climate change are resulting in more hot and dry periods in the summer.

Innovations can help growers to face such challenges. “At Hof Engelhardt, they have built an extra water storage facility to create higher irrigation capacity in the summer. Moreover, they have invested in a new weeding machine to reduce labour costs,” Eckhard explains. Additionally, Rijk Zwaan is supporting growers in tackling today’s challenges, he continues: “We are looking for varieties that are better adapted to hot summer conditions and that can be harvested mechanically.”

Testing new varieties

At Hof Engelhardt, they are very open-minded when it comes to testing new Rijk Zwaan varieties, both in their state-of-the-art glasshouse and in the open field, according to Eckhard. “They choose the best new varieties as their new standard for next year. In lettuces, we can provide varieties with the newest mildew resistances, which is very important for organic growers. In cucumber and tomato crops, our tasty, high-yielding varieties are key. We value our strong partnerships with innovative organic growers like Hof Engelhardt. Together, we can help the organic vegetable sector in Germany to keep on moving forward.”

Read Hof Engelhardt’s story on our consumer platform, LoveMySalad.

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Heleen Bos
Marketing specialist Organics / Foreign Development Projects