‘Choosing diffuse ALBARINO glass will boost production further’

Belgian tomato company Den Berk Délice positive about cooperation with Cultilene

Den Berk Délice – one of Belgium’s leading tomato companies – Is working hard. Last year, a new location of almost ten hectares sprang up in Rijkevorsel. The entrepreneurs opted for ALBARINO Ultra Low Haze glass with double AR coating from Saint-Gobain Cultilene for the new building. In doing so, they want to take advantage of the added value of diffusion on the one hand, while at the same time further optimising light transmission and thus production.

Den Berk Délice is far from being an average company. The company comprises six different greenhouse horticulture businesses – all located in the Merksplas region – and is run by four entrepreneurs: Luc Beirinckx, Hans van Gool, Paul van de Mierop and Koen Lauwerysen. Initially, they each had their own company and shared business data in a study group. In 2009, the entrepreneurs set up their first joint venture, Den Berk. Six years ago, they decided to join forces further, and the various cultivation locations were placed under the flag of Den Berk Délice. “The companies are still entirely separate entities, but are managed under the same vision,” says Luc Beirinckx. “Initially, the focus was mainly on growing vine tomatoes, but now we specialise in snack and flavour tomatoes. We sell these jointly. Approximately forty percent of our products are destined for Belgian retail, but Germany and other European countries are also important markets. We pack our flavour tomatoes under our own management; a separate packaging department has been set up for this purpose at one of the growing locations. In 2021, an entirely new packing shed will be built at a separate location.”

Double the added value
Growth is not an end in itself for the entrepreneurs behind Den Berk Délice; in the first place, they want to grow the tastiest tomatoes while also responding to market demand. And the fact that this demand exists is demonstrated by the fact that the company is experiencing continuous growth. The entrepreneurs set up a new company last year under the flag of Den Berk Délice: Salmmeir. In March 2019, worked started on the construction of 9.7 hectares of glass in Rijkevorsel, which was put into use at the end of September. “And that’s not all: a further expansion of 7.5 hectares is planned for next year and another 8.5 hectares will probably follow in 2022,” says Beirinckx.

The new building is equipped with state-of-the-art horticultural technology. For example, the new greenhouse, just like the other glass curtains at Den Berk Délice, is equipped with diffuse glass. “We have long been convinced of the added value of diffuse glass. The advantages are twofold. On the one hand, by providing this glass with a double-sided AR coating, you can bring extra light into the greenhouse. In this way you reduce reflection, and light transmission is increased. At the same time, the diffused light penetrates deeper into the crop, allowing the entire plant to participate in photosynthesis. The combination of both aspects results in five to seven percent of additional production on average.”

A better, more sustainable product
For the new Salmmeir building, the entrepreneurs of Den Berk Délice chose ALBARINO Ultra Low Haze glass with double AR coating from Cultilene. “The first greenhouses were fitted with etched glass from China. The etching process involves treating the glass with a chemical agent, which changes the structure of the glass.  Unevenness and minor damage to the surface also occur. This can quickly result in contamination that is more difficult to remove. As a result, light transmission is significantly reduced and you cannot achieve the maximum production increase possible with diffuse glass. Cultilene’s ALBARINO glass is unique in this regard. Cultilene’s Sol-Gel Coating forms a whole with the glass and the structure of the glass is not affected. This results in a better and more sustainable product, ensuring maximum light transmission.”

Lower haze factor
While the entrepreneurs opted for diffuse glass with a haze factor of 15 to 25 percent in previous projects, they opted for Ultra Low Haze ALBARINO glass with a haze factor of 5 percent in the recent new building. This means that the incoming light is scattered less. “As I said, diffusion has its advantages. But a high level of light transmission has even greater added value in tomato cultivation. With coarse vine tomatoes, this is often not an option because it causes problems with the fruit more easily; with smaller snack tomatoes, however, the risk is lower. When we built our other greenhouses, a haze factor of 15 to 25 percent was the lowest possible degree of diffusion. The fact that we can now opt for a haze factor of 5 percent is a great advantage for our cultivation. This low haze factor in combination with the double AR coating allows us to get more light into the greenhouse – the hemispheric light transmission is 91.5 percent. This should drive up production even further.”

Correct and transparent
The entrepreneurs not only joined forces with Cultilene because of the advantages of the Sol-Gel Coating and the possibility of opting for Ultra Low Haze glass but also because there has been good cooperation on the substrate surface for many years. “We grow on Exact Air, to our complete satisfaction. And it’s nice doing business with Cultilene. They always act correctly, and keep their promises. This was evident again during delivery of the glass: everything was on time.”

Beirinckx also appreciates the openness and transparency of Cultilene. For example, he visited the Saint-Gobain glass factory in Mannheim prior to purchasing the ALBARINO glass. “We got a glimpse into the entire production process, from oven to delivery. We also saw that there are many control steps built into this process, and that the work is very accurate. That reinforced our decision to opt for ALBARINO glass. And because this factory has been making glass for the solar industry for many years, it has a lot of knowledge and experience in house. That inspires confidence. Last but not least, only low-iron raw materials are used. This also contributes to optimal light transmission.”

Moreover, the entrepreneur appreciates the fact that Cultilene also thinks about how to clean the glass. “We have a choice of different cleaning products which do not affect the glass and which maintain the quality and light transmission.”

Right choice
The crucial question, of course, is how does the crop grow under the ALBARINO glass? And how does the low haze factor work out? “The first crop is now well advanced, and we can say that the choice of ALBARINO glass was the right one. The crop is strong and generative and the yields exceed our expectations and forecasts. We also have a coarser fruit weight than the crops at our other locations. In short: the choice of diffuse ALBARINO glass will undoubtedly give production a further boost.”

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