With 35 hectares of greenhouses constructed during the pandemic, another 52 hectares under construction and plans to install up to 160 hectares by 2024, the Agroparque AgroAlpha-Orquídea Honduras is set to become the largest tomato, bell, and chili pepper producer-exporter in the Central American region. In addition to exporting a great variety of vegetables to the United States and Canada, the greenhouse park will promote the use of world-class greenhouse technologies for planting, harvesting, packing and exporting.
High-tech growing in Honduras
Last year, greenhouses were erected in the Agroparc, which is located nearby the village Las Tapias, in the southern Honduran department of Choluteca. By now every day tomatoes and various peppers (bell & chili) are harvested and exported to the US and Canada. If it's up to Ricardo Lardizábal (Raca), the general manager of the Agro Alpha park, this is only the start. He believes the chosen cultivation methods will open many doors for the region.
"Innovation is one of the pillars of the Agroparque AgroAlpha-Orquídea Honduras philosophy, this is why we have opted for more sustainable and cost-effective growing methods," he says, and explains how they are for example using biological pest control to reduce agrochemicals. "These have been proven to reduce production costs by a factor of six while boosting yields."
Other methods implemented by AgroAlpha include hydroponic irrigation systems in which the crops are grown on inert coco fiber substrate, paired with a high-frequency nutrient-infused irrigation scheme. "This is a noteworthy design for our region, with climate control to optimize growing conditions for the crops", Raca says. "Thanks to state-of-the-art technology, we are able to control humidity, light intensity, and temperature to ensure the ideal conditions for crop production and pest control."
The southern zone of Honduras, where the agroparc is located, is privileged with a climate that favors the production and harvesting of peppers and tomatoes, Raca says. "It is an area with the ideal altitude for planting because it has lower average temperatures, higher radiation, and more hours of sunlight than the rest of the country."
However, it's also an arid region of the tropical country of Honduras, which is why natural resource management (particularly water) is of utmost importance to the sustainability of their long-term production strategy. "To tackle the complex issue of growing in a water-scarce region, we had to get creative, which is why we decided to collect the rainwater through a series of drainage pipes that feed into several large reservoirs", Raca shows. "However, considering the low volume of rain present in the region, we also reuse the drainage water from irrigation. The excess water flows through pipes and is dispatched to a room equipped with specialized equipment which job is to sterilize the wastewater and later recirculate it, boosted with the original nutrient solution."
What this means is AgroAlpha reduces its water and fertilizer usage by almost 40%. "Now we're leading the way for other producers in the region who want to reduce their water footprint." He adds this is an important role the area wants to play: to inspire other growers and to show what's possible with modern farming techniques.
And there's more going on. "With AgroAlpha-Orquídea Honduras, we're committed to innovation and sustainable development, always keeping an eye on having a positive impact on the environment. That's why we implemented the use of solar panels for all operational processes of the AgroAlpha Agroparque. The use of these environmentally friendly alternatives reduces pollution and the use of fossil fuels." It is worth mentioning that it also has power generators for any weather eventuality, including energy consumption in the packing area at night.
The direct commitment of AgroAlpha-Orquídea Honduras Agroparque to the community is reflected in the generation of jobs for nearby communities. In less than a year, 900 new permanent jobs have been generated in the area and 3,000 indirect jobs. They also support educational centers, neighborhoods, and community triage.
One of the future plans is to continue expanding in order to create even more opportunities and train the employees with the necessary knowledge for a more prosperous future. "The doors of Agroparque AgroAlpha-Orquídea Honduras will always be open to teach and train all Honduran producers who wish to venture into the field of production under protected areas."
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