Tomatoes from Heiko Hagdorn

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Qlipr clearly has added value for the tomato cultivation

The Qlipr crop clamping system has more than achieved its position in cucumber cultivation; More than 12 million stainless steel Qlipr clips have already been sold worldwide. However, the system also offers potential for tomato cultivation: the results at a farm in Southern Germany are extremely positive. "There are countless advantages. The system helps to reduce our CO2 footprint and there is more light in the greenhouse. We also expect to save on labour in the long term."

German tomato grower Hagdorn works with improved clamping system.

The modern tomato company where experience is gained with Qlipr, is located in the beautiful South German hilly landscape. “We are one of the few greenhouse growers in this region," says owner Heiko. "Until a few years ago we ran an open-field vegetable business, in 2003 we started to focus on tomatoes under glass. Ultimately, our company was built in 2008. "

The company of Heiko and his wife Karin counts 40,000 m2; vine tomatoes, cocktail tomatoes and snack tomatoes for the local market are grown here. The entrepreneurs grow on coco and opted for high-wire cultivation from the very beginning. "To secure the plants, we used plastic clips in the vine and cocktail tomatoes for a long time. The snack tomatoes were screwed in."

Multiple actions in one pass

The high costs that Heiko paid for the disposal of the spent crop, including rope and plastic clips, were an eyesore for the grower. "We lost about 40 cents per square meter on this! And these costs will probably decrease in the future. In addition, the converted maize chopper which we used to clear the crop regularly got stuck due to the existing rope. "

The disposal costs were an important reason for the grower to switch to Qlipr, Cor Pellikaan's crop clamping system, at the beginning of this year. The sustainable character was also a reason to choose the innovative system. "Sustainable labour is important to us," says Heiko. "We want to produce with an eye for our environment and for the next generation. In addition, our customer demands that we try to reduce our CO2 footprint as much as possible. This system meets this requirement; the foliage contains no twine or plastic and can be shredded and composted immediately after cultivation. Free of charge!"

By default, the Qlipr system from Cor Pellikaan works with two crop wires . However, Heiko chose to continue to work with one crop wire, at a height of 4.20 meters. A 1.50 meter crop hook hangs from this wire. During the first four or five weeks, the plant is attached to the biodegradable rope with a stainless steel clip, which has recently been further adapted for tomato cultivation and is fitted with a special foam rubber insert. The rope is tied to the hook. When the plant reaches the hook, the crop is first secured with one clip, followed by the second crop clip. When the plant has grown about fifty centimetres, the bottom clip is removed and the plant lowers itself down the hook under its own weight. Then the head is reattached. "The system allows us to combine several operations; lowering, lowering, thieving, moving the clips and - if necessary - moving the clips. Previously, we lowered it in a separate working passage. This combination of activities is a big plus of the system. In the snack and cocktail tomatoes we go around once every seven days, in the vine tomatoes every ten days. Because you go around less often, the work performance of an inexperienced worker can compete with an experienced twiner. The system also fits in perfectly with our corporate philosophy, in which we want to give employees as much responsibility as possible, "Karin explains.

Another important advantage, according to Karin, is that all the work activities take place at the same, lower working height. "Working conditions have been improved and because the plants are lowered more gradually, there is less crop damage. "

Lower labour requirement

But the system has more advantages, according to Heiko and Karin. The light gain, especially with snack tomatoes is being mentioned by the growers as a big plus. "There are a lot of plants per meter and therefore quite a few rope reels were needed. These took away a lot of light. Now we also work with a string, but this is removed as soon as the plants have reached the hook. The clips are in between the crop."

Karin also points out that the crop appears very evenly on top. "This was different when we lowered the plants manually. And if something goes wrong with a plant, we can easily remove it by cutting the plant at the pot. No more hinderance from plastic clips, ropes and/or reels."

Heiko also indicates that - because no twisting is done - all trusses hang to one side. This makes harvesting and leaf cutting easier. "In any case, leaf cutting has been a lot faster and easier since we started working with Qlipr," says the grower. "After all, there are no longer any plastic clips or rope in the way. This also improves cutting and reduces the risk of botrytis."

For the reasons mentioned, because several activities can be combined in one working pass and because a larger planting distance can be clipped, the grower expects that he will be able to do with less labour in the coming years. "This year a bit more labour was needed, but that was also because we had to hang up all the hooks and the system was new to us."

'Recommend to any grower'

Does the system also have disadvantages? According to Heiko, it is important to maintain the same work schedule from the start. “We first worked from the front to the back, then we divided the greenhouse into compartments for the various employees. That meant that rows where we had already been on Friday were due again the next Monday. As a results plants in other rows were becoming too long. We learned from that."

Heiko also indicates that people need to learn to work with the system. "The principle of Qlipr is in itself very easy to learn, but unlearning old habits requires some effort. And adding heads is a skill that you have to master. Thanks to Cor Pellikaan's consultancy, all our employees quickly mastered the system. Everyone can work with it, which makes you extra flexible as an entrepreneur."

All in all, the German grower concludes that the Qlipr system is well suited for tomatoes. "Qlipr has a clear added value for tomato cultivation: it is financially interesting (see framework, ed.) and it is beneficial in terms of labour and the amount of light. Above all: it is sustainable. We no longer pay sky-high costs for the removal of our leaves, but we can compost this - together with the coconut - into a perfect soil improver. We use this compost on our own land or we sell it to private individuals. This way it brings in money instead of costing it! "

'We are significantly cheaper off '

Until the beginning of this year, Heiko and Karin used synthetic rope with free fall and plastic 21 mm clips to secure the plants. The entrepreneurs paid about 0.11 euro per plant for the reels of rope, and about 17 euro cents per plant for the clips. On top of that, the disposal costs of about 0.17 euros per plant were added. In total, Heiko lost about 45 cents per plant on an annual basis.

Qlipr, which is registered for the Vamil scheme, costs - depending on the exact product specifications - approximately one euro per plant. This comprises the complete system; the crop hook, two stainless steel clamps and the foam pieces which are placed in the clips. "These foam pieces have to be replaced every four years," says Heiko. "The costs are 0.04 euro per piece of foam. The other parts - by disinfecting them annually - last at least ten years and are in fact part of the greenhouse equipment. All in all, without taking the labour advantage into account, I expect to earn back the system within three to four years. In addition to the environmental gain and the benefits in terms of working conditions, we are therefore also significantly cheaper! "

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