Especially for the UEFA Euro 2021, our customers Anne Mortelmans and Stefan Van Craen are producing tomatoes in the colors of the Belgian flag. They are used in the Stoffels Toma’Box . Anne and Stefan are growing their tomatoes on perlite for the first time.
Stefan: “ Last August, which was a difficult summer period due to the heat, we decided to plant. It turned out that we were able to make the crops generative with little water. This was a revelation to us, one that made us decide to switch to perlite immediately.”
Our customer Kristof Van Dorpe of Vandogro grows two rounds of cucumber in summer and lettuce in winter.
In mid-May, his two greenhouses, each with a surface area of 7,500 square metres, were home to a traditional cucumber crop. One of them is on perlite for the first time. Kristof is enthusiastic about it and has already decided that next year he will choose perlite for both greenhouses.
This is partly because of the beautiful roots Kristof discovers when he and our sales manager Kurt Lauwers do a tour of the greenhouse and cut open a random slab. “Oh my, I have never seen such a great bunch of roots before”, he smiles. “I am positively surprised .”
Perlite slabs and perlite cubes are a perfect combo. Our customers were happy to share their experience with hortidaily.com and groentennieuws.nl:
Pieter Hoogerbrugge from Kwekerij Hoogerbrugge: “A few days after the planting, the roots were already in the slab.” Colleague grower Peet Withagen of the Zonnekreek tomato nursery is no longer surprised by this quick rooting, even with dark weather at the beginning of December. He has been growing tomatoes on perlite for years and doesn’t want anything else. Both nurseries are working with the new perlite slabs from Willems Perlite. After their investment in new machinery, the company can now produce perlite slabs on a large scale.
Switch from rockwool to perlite
Hoogerbrugge switched from rockwool slabs to perlite slabs. Pieter explains why: “I have been following Peet’s cultivation in recent years and I’ve seen that the crop on perlite was always doing very well. Perlite is also a bit cheaper to purchase and to dispose of, because it’s recycled in compost. This means that you can achieve high productions at a lower cost. That’s exactly what we wanted.”
Planting directly on the slab
Pieter: “I believe that the match between perlite pot and perlite slab is very important. You immediately see the pot properly ‘sucking’ on the slab. Another advantage is that you can plant directly on the slab. So you don’t need a preliminary phase on a sheet, as when growing on rockwool.”
Better moisture control
For Peet Withagen, the capillary effect is the main reason why he has been growing on perlite for “at least fifteen years”. Perlite gives Peet much better control. As a precaution, Peet always makes a little v-shaped cut in the head of the slab. “This keeps the slab airy, especially if you’re going to be draining a lot.”
Kurt Lauwers, sales manager at Willems Perlite, has seen other growers making such cuts sometimes, also in other crops. Certainly not unwise, although the slabs are already equipped with holes for moisture as a standard.
Perlite : a very simple substrate
For Peet, perlite is clearly “a very simple substrate,” with a reputation of being ‘a dry substrate’ that he believes is unjustified. “I once had a broken unit and the plants on perlite did very well even on a very hot day. Puzzling with dripping amounts to get the moisture content back to level is also not necessary at all. You add water and the slabs acquire the right moisture again.”
Pieter and his brother Erik will have that experience this season, just like more and more other growers of all kinds of crops. The Netherlands has long since ceased to be just a ‘rockwool land’. “Internationally, a lot is already grown on perlite. After all, it is simply a nice, natural product, which is also available worldwide,” says Kurt.
Kurt Lauwers, who used to be one of the familiar faces at Hollandplant as their Sales Manager, recently made a remarkable career move. After 19 years he has moved to Willems Perlite.
“I have always enjoyed working at Hollandplant, but I was ready for a new challenge,” says Kurt Lauwers. “I found it at Willems Perlite. I have known the Willems brothers for a long time because Hollandplant has been a regular customer of perlite blocks since 2002 and in recent years also of their vermiculite. So I have always known that growers achieve good results using a combination of perlite substrate and perlite blocks.”
Perlite slabs and recycling
Meanwhile, Willems Perlite has been investing heavily in further growth: the company is now also starting the production of perlite substrate in the form of perlite slabs and upright bags. To complete the cycle, the organisation also wants to provide for the recycling after the growing season. Kurt Lauwers is fully ready to sell Willems Perlite’s new products and services.
Ecological and financial benefits of perlite
“I started on 1 August and currently things are exceeding expectations,” he says. “The first orders have already been received and enquiries are coming in, including from growers who have no experience of growing on perlite. They also see the great benefits of perlite. For instance, no chemicals are added during the production process, which makes perlite very sustainable and ecological. Moreover, the growers do not have to drain the perlite slabs at the start, resulting in great labour savings.”
Demand for perlite is growing
Perlite is used in most vegetable cultivation, as well as for the cultivation of strawberries and soft fruit. Sven and Niels Willems, the managers of Willems Perlite, see the demand for their products growing. “We are very happy to have an experienced salesperson like Kurt Lauwers,” they say. “He comes at the ideal moment to respond to this growing demand. We are already looking for additional staff.”
Willems Perlite delivered its perlite cubes for the high-tech greenhouse of Ferme Abattoir, the urban farm built on the roof of Foodmet market hall in Brussels. We are very proud to be part of this unique circular economy project.
Ferme Abattoir combines a 2000m2 high-tech greenhouse and a 2000 m2 outdoor garden on the roof of Foodmet market hall.
The urban farm houses a state of the art aquaponic system where fish, fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown in a closed and zero waste loop.
Foodmet is a popular food market in Brussels that attracts 100,000 visitors each week. It responds to the consumers’ demand for healthier, local and traceable food. Everything is produced naturally, without any chemicals.