Strawberry co-op steps up its sustainability efforts

Water management and renewable energy are among the key methods used by Hoogstraten co-op to reduce its environmental impact

Hoogstraten strawberry growers co-op, based near Antwerp, Belgium, is stepping up its efforts to reduce negative impact on the environment and the local community.

Examples of methods adopted by growers include bee pollination and the use of environmentally friendly biologicals to control harmful insects.

Hoogstraten say it works to to support all its members with targeted advice on sustainability issues such as the use of natural resources and CO2 reduction. 

“We rely on nature to help us produce our delicious strawberries, so taking care of nature and our environment is a given. Without bees and pollination there will be no strawberries”, said business development manager Synnøve Johansson.

The co-op says it works to ensure sustainable production is adhered to at the office and is constantly looking at innovative ways to evolve practices. Its new office building is energy efficient and with automated heating and lighting.

Rainwater is collected and recycled on-site and at growers’ facilities, and growers usw this supply for irrigation in the greenhouses. Rooftop solar panels produce green energy, which is mainly used for cooling the strawberries. 

The co-op adds that it conducts research into sustainable production; at Proefcentrum (Research Centre Hoogstraten) one current projects is looking at the collection, decontamination, and reuse of rainwater from the trayfields used during the production of strawberry plants.  

Ms Johansson said: “Water management is another crucial aspect of sustainability, and a priority from a production point of view. The plants require high quality water to produce our Hoogstraten strawberries.

Strawberries account for approximately 50% of Hoogstraten’s turnover. All strawberries sold at Hoogstraten are grown locally in Belgium, or just across the border in the south Netherlands.

Every year, approximately one third of the strawberry volumes are sold domestically, while two thirds are exported, to the UK and other markets. From September through to mid-December around 80% of Hoogstraten’s volumes are exported. 

Scandinavia, UK and France are the largest export market for Belgian strawberries, due to the market favouring fresh products.