Innovating and investing in sustainable energy sources, especially now

Due to the current soaring prices of energy and raw materials, investing in innovative production methods becomes increasingly appealing. The growers of Growers United have been focusing on energy-saving and sustainable solutions for years already. Tom Zwinkels of nursery Bryte for example, is the first Dutch tomato grower switching to full LED lighting. ‘In 2019, we decided to take certain sustainable steps in this direction by using a hybrid lighting system. Investing in LED lighting was a logical next step.’ While the level of light remains the same, more than 40% of energy can be saved. But that is not all. These past years, Growers United has taken even more smart steps to produce sustainably grown and high-quality products.

Changed crop schedule for majority of Dutch fruit and vegetable growers
The Dutch growers producing seasonal fruit and vegetables – like aubergines, blocky peppers, and cucumbers – have harvested and delivered their final fresh produce. They are currently preparing for the next growing season in 2023. In previous years, this particular production method did not apply to tomato growers, as supplemental lighting allowed them to deliver their fresh produce year-round. But the exploding costs of energy and raw materials force most Dutch growers to change their crop schedule. This means planting new crops for the next season but do not switch on the lighting.

Tom Zwinkels first Dutch tomato grower using full LED lighting
To keep delivering high-quality tomatoes to his (international) clients, Tom Zwinkels experimented with LED lighting in a hybrid setting. In the past last three years, LED as well as SON-T lighting complemented each other. ‘SON-T is an expensive light using a lot of energy,’ Tom explains. ‘LED is much more sustainable.’

The current energy costs have accelerated the switch to full LED lighting in greenhouse horticulture. That is why since last summer, Tom is the first Dutch tomato grower using full LED to produce his tomatoes. ‘Even though using supplemental lighting in our greenhouses is not profitable with these high energy costs, LED lighting still remains the most efficient and sustainable way to produce our tomatoes,’ Tom explains. ‘That is why an increasing number of fellow growers at Growers United are also switching to LED lighting.’

Sustainable solutions and innovative production methods
Next to switching to full LED lighting, Tom also uses his own efficient mini-power plant to not only produce electricity, but also heat to regulate the inside temperature and CO2 too. The generated CO2 is used as a nutrient for the crops and is distributed through the greenhouses using enormous fans. The tomato plants then turn the CO2 into oxygen. This mini-power plant has an efficiency of 99% resulting in significantly less CO2 emission into the atmosphere.

In addition, Tom created a power source in 2021, through using his water basin to add floating solar panels. To take sustainable growing even one step further, Bryte will start using the warm water network of the Westland in 2023. Here, water is heated by using sustainable sources like geothermal heat, residual heat from the industry as well as solar and wind energy.

Greenhouse horticulture should keep the lead in sustainable production
Compared to other agricultural sectors, the Dutch greenhouse horticulture industry is at the forefront of the energy transition. Look at the innovative solutions Tom uses to grow his tomatoes. Regardless of the high energy costs and increasing prices for raw materials, the sector keeps investing in energy-saving and sustainable solutions. The energy transition remains high on the agenda, in order to reach its goal of producing entirely climate-neutral in 2040.

Growers United has been focusing on sustainable solutions and innovative techniques for years already. Curious to know how we keep reaching our goals? Stay informed via or get in touch, via or +31 (0)174 238 000.