BREDA – You spend most of your life at work. So it is important that you have a job that you enjoy and that gives you a challenge. In the section ‘On the work floor at’ we talk to people who are passionate about their jobs. Today: Cultivation manager Richard.
Richard works as a crop manager at Kruidenaer in Etten-Leur. Every day he walks 5 to 7 kilometers through the pepper and basil greenhouses to keep an eye on the entire production. A job with a lot of responsibility, because one mistake can destroy the entire production.
Richard, can you explain what your job entails?
I am responsible for greenhouse cultivation here, which includes peppers and basil. I check the temperature, the growth of the plants, the climate in the greenhouses and also scout for diseases and pests. I am also responsible for plant protection. Sometimes I also manage people, in consultation with others. I fix minor faults in the equipment with our maintenance engineer. However, in case of major disruptions, an external company is called in.
How does your working day start?
I usually start at 6 in the morning. Then I first check the climate control computer if there is an error somewhere. I need to know how it all goes. Then I go through the company and see if everyone is busy and if all the machines are running. I also decide whether windows should be opened and how the solar and energy screens should be set. Then I also check the plants. Is there a caterpillar somewhere? Or do I see flies? Then I have to think about battle. You can only fight with a minimal amount of herbs, so I have to be there on time.’
A climate computer, that sounds complicated?
It’s not too bad, I’ve gotten to know the software over the years. Anyone can learn it because I’m not super handy with computers. But I know almost everything about the climate in the greenhouse.
Is basil an easy plant?
Our cultivation method has been developed here, but there is always room for improvement. We are constantly testing new techniques and variants. Three types of basil are currently growing. Basil that is used to make pesto, basil that we pack in containers for supermarkets and Thai basil. The latter tastes really different, a bit like tarragon and anise. In addition, we also grow herbs in tunnels and the open country, a colleague is responsible for this.”
What makes Kruidenaer unique?
We grow basil on water, the plants float in ponds that are 25 centimeters deep. And the special thing is: we use much less water than in the traditional way. Otherwise, you don’t know if a plant absorbs the water, but because there is always water available here, the basil grows very well here. There is also no waste of water from leaching into the ground, because all the water is recycled. We have developed this technique here over the years. We add fertilizer and oxygen to the water. With the right mix, we get the best result. That way, we can grow basil all year round.”
How did you end up here?
I started working in a tomato greenhouse at 11 after my mother heard they were looking for staff. Since then I have always worked in a greenhouse. I was already involved in peppers with my previous boss, but when he quit I had to look for other work. I heard through someone that they were building a greenhouse here. I drove by to ask if they were looking for anyone else. That was the case, and now I have worked here with great pleasure for 14 years!
What is the biggest challenge for you?
It is the climate in the greenhouse. I really care about that, because you can really increase the cultivation if the temperature is not right. With stable weather I don’t have much work on it. But when they recently predicted 40 degrees, I was still working on the right approach in my head that night. Work always goes on here because a plant doesn’t stop when a malfunction occurs, it just keeps growing.
Can you see yourself working here for a long time?
I have a great time here. It is a nice challenge to work with different crops. So it’s still a challenge for me even after all these years.
Place of residence:
primary nursery school,
1 year of intermediate horticulture, BBL training in horticulture vocational school and over 40 years of experience.