We grow high-quality products all year round. To achieve this, we remove old plants from the greenhouse a number of times each year. We cut away the old plants and ropes from which they are suspended with a knife. Next, the old plants are taken outside and allowed to dry. This plant waste is much lighter when dry. After a number of days, the plant waste is collected for further processing.
We can now hang ropes in the empty greenhouse. At a later stage, the plants are entwined in these ropes (see entwining). We distribute the ropes evenly in the position where the plants will be located. A special knot is used for attaching the ropes. Our employees generally carry the ropes around their neck. This sometimes leads to itching. Wearing a shirt with a collar solves this problem.
We do not produce the seedlings ourselves. A specialised company is responsible for this and delivers the seedlings to us by truck. After their arrival, the plants are placed on trolleys and taken into the greenhouse. In the greenhouse, we position the plant on the mat and insert a stick for support. The drip-feed system delivers water to the plant. The water supply also contains all of the nutrients required by the plant.
Once all of the plants have been positioned, we entwine them in the ropes. This means that we wind the rope around the plant so that it can grow upwards. We do this every two days. We also remove the shoot tendrils. These are side shoots which grow above each leaf; we call this area a node. This is also the area where the cucumber starts to grow.
Cleaning the bottom node
Generally, several shoot tendrils develop and grow at the bottom of the plant. Cucumbers which grow in this position are normally curved. To prevent this, we remove all of the shoot tendrils at the bottom nodes to ensure that nothing can grow there. This also means that our employees do not have to bend down when harvesting the cucumbers.
Several cucumbers generally grow from a single node. That places a heavy load on the plants and increases the likelihood of curved cucumbers. To prevent this, we remove double cucumbers from the stem.
Securing the plants
When the plant protrudes above the steel wire, we secure it to the rope with a simple knot. Next, we break off the head of the plant and the first leaf under the steel wire. This allows more sunlight to reach the plant. We also remove any shoot tendrils under the steel wire. Only the top two shoot tendrils are left in place. These are required when laying the shoot tendrils over the wire.
Laying the shoot tendrils over the wire
When the shoot tendrils are large enough, we lay them over the wire. One tendril on the left and one tendril on the right.
The cucumbers will grow from these tendrils later on.
Once the tendrils have been laid over the wire, they grow downwards and we remove the top. We guide any tendrils that show a tendency to grow upwards back down again. This is done to prevent the tendril from becoming too long and hanging down on the ground.
The plant continuously produces new leaves in order to capture as much sunlight as possible. These leaves grow increasingly larger, making it difficult to see the cucumbers when harvesting. Consequently, we remove the large and old leaves. Generally, this involves one leaf on each occasion. These activities are repeated on multiple occasions for each plant.
After approximately three weeks, the cucumbers are large enough for harvesting. The exact time of harvesting depends on the amount of sunlight. Harvesting requires a knife and a cart carrying trays. After each row, we sterilise our hands. We also use a new knife for each row in order to eliminate the risk of spreading bacteria and disease.
Harvesting is always based on a minimum weight. Each cucumber which satisfies or exceeds this weight requirement is harvested and laid in a tray. Damaged and curved cucumbers are laid in a separate tray. In periods of good weather with copious sunshine, we harvest every day. On Saturday, we harvest more intensively as otherwise too many cucumbers will hang from the plants on Monday.
After harvesting, the cucumbers are sorted. This task is largely performed by a machine. The machine empties the trays one by one and channels the cucumbers onto a moving conveyor belt. Our employees align the cucumbers and remove any curved cucumbers.
The conveyor belt transports them into the sorting machine. Here, the cucumbers are sorted by weight and diverted to the right sorting bin. Next, the cucumbers are removed from the sorting bin and placed in a box. Depending on the weight class, each box contains 12 cucumbers. After boxing, they are placed on another conveyor where the boxes are stamped. Next, the stacking robot places the boxes on a pallet. When the pallet is full, it is removed and replaced by an empty pallet. The full pallet is made ready for transport and set aside.