"Strawberries are a complicated product in the summer: if the weather is too hot, the berries grow too fast, and we try to counteract that with slower growth varieties such as the Opra," says Fritz Boss of the farm greenhouse facility.
"Growing strawberries in greenhouses or in substrate panniers has many advantages: the plants are less susceptible to pests and soil diseases, and we have a closed water system with our own treatment, so we work as resource-efficient as possible. The amount of irrigation and nutrients is automatically controlled by a computer system so that the fruit always has the ideal supply. Lastly, by working with certain insects we can also avoid the use of chemical pesticides," says Boss.
By combining greenhouse cultivation and film tunnels, growers can supply the trade almost year-round, with a short break in August. He notes differences in the quality between the different cultivation methods: "The protected strawberries are less susceptible to cultivation and at the same time have a much better shelf life." This year, there are fewer water supply problems than in 2018. "The continuous supply in our region is crucial."
Chicory is the Fritz Boss specialty. The root is grown outdoors, then cut to size and frozen until needed. Since 2002, he has been able to offer chicory all year round. "If necessary, the root is thawed and stored in plastic cells to float in drift cells." In specially air-conditioned darkrooms and with constant watering, the vegetable then grows for 21 days before being cleaned, packed and delivered.
In the trade, the chicory is mainly offered in flowpacks with 350-500g capacity, the film has a special laser perforation, which should keep the product fresh. "For chicory, there are no alternatives to this type of packaging, as the vegetables are very sensitive to air and light, and once the chicory is green, it can no longer be sold."
How alternative is alternative packaging really?
Boss and the marketing organization Franken-Gemüse Knoblauchsland regularly carry out tests with new packaging solutions. There is not a suitable solution for every product, says managing director Florian Wolz: "For example, we've tested tomato shakers made of cardboard and have to see how they hold up in the trade." However, he still sees that customers desire packaged goods in general: "In Southern Germany, a lot of goods are sold without packaging and there you can clearly see a split in the opinion.The opportunity for loose purchases is there and yet many still opt for packaged goods."
"Unpackaged merchandise can also be problematic in terms of hygiene, and shelf life is also improved, of course," adds Boss.
Many of the new developments in packaging are watched quite skeptical by both of them: "In some cases, it's just a matter of small amounts of plastic being saved, and producing these alternatives sometimes even takes more energy ... Ultimately, many solutions are presented as greener than they actually are." They agree: "There are always two or three sides to new ideas, it's not always as easy as it might seem at first glance."