Dutch grower places photo voltaic panels above tender fruit crops
Growing red berries under solar panels: The first to do this is Rini Kusters from Kusters Zachtfruit. The test solar panel setup that he installed over the plants together with GroenLeven last year will be expanded to a full solar source starting today. “Somebody has to take the first step,” says Rini.
Rini inherited his father’s soft fruit company 20 years ago. “My father died at a relatively young age. I was faced with the decision: will I take over the company or will I sell it? I have decided to take over the company. I have decided what I had to do.” I wanted to grow and be innovative with Kusters Zachtfruit. So the decision to install solar panels over my red berries after 20 years was a good one. “
The setup generates green energy but also offers protection from extreme weather conditions. “We are seeing more extreme weather in the Netherlands. I have noticed that our summers are getting too hot and our winters too wet. If something is harmful to the plants, it is these weather conditions. Take, for example, the formation of fungi on fruit because the climate is too humid, an annoying problem that is becoming more common. “
By replacing the traditional plastic cover with solar panels, Rini offers its plants a more favorable climate and better protection. “On the hottest day of last year it was ten degrees cooler under the solar panels. On the wettest day of last year, the plants stayed as good as dry. It really is much better for the fruit, so I am convinced that the experimental setup will be extended is a good move. “
Rini states that the quality of the fruit has improved because of the solar panels. “I can harvest 5-7 days later than usual, however. It can be very beneficial to have my product available later when others are already sold out. I look forward to seeing how this works in practice.” Sustainability is becoming an important issue for both fruit growers and consumers. “I realize that the role of sustainability has become more and more important over the past three years. It has almost become a requirement for sales, my customers find it more and more important.
However, Rini is surprised that there is a conflict over sustainability and environmental protection in the Netherlands. He sees that most of the Netherlands want to be sustainable, but he is surprised that people are critical when we start developing wind and solar parks. “I think that’s a bit selfish. If we want to go green we all have to do this, all take a first step and start with it, otherwise we will never get anywhere. We believe it is necessary so we have to accept it too the consequences. And they are even limited with dual functions such as the solar panels over my red berries. “
Fortunately, in Wadenoijen, where the soft fruit company is located, Rinis Solarquelle was very well received. “I had coffee with the neighbors in advance to present the plans. They were enthusiastic and found the plans interesting. To get approval, I invited her and the congregation to an information meeting. The evening even ended with applause, they were so excited! It’s nice that the people in the church believe in it as much as I do. “
What does the future look like, according to Rini? “I expect the weather to get even more extreme in the near future. It is good to be prepared as a grower. I have certainly found that the solar panels are very helpful in this, while also helping to limit the extremes. After all, sustainable solutions such as solar energy are required to stop climate change. In combination with fruit growing, you can make anything out of it. This is a solution that I really believe in. “
Innovate together for a cleaner world
More and more fruit growers are showing interest in an agricultural PV solution implemented for Rini. Willem de Vries, project manager agri-PV, explains: “A double function like this is a good example of the energy transition. It not only offers green energy, but also several advantages for the producer, as Rini told us. Get together then lead GroenLeven the process from A to Z, for example when applying for the SDE grant. This is how we take innovative steps for a better world. “
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