The DKG Group started in the early ’90s. DKG’s main sectors are intelligent supplies trade, consulting & branding services, research & training and veggies hydroponic production. The Group has expanded itself in the Balkans and the Southeast Mediterranean countries. “People are enthusiastic about health in Greece. We belong to the food sector now as all of our actions are related to the food chain. We started thinking about structure, certifications, packaging and safety in the greenhouses”, Christos D. Katsanos and Evagelos Drimtzias, Co-Directors of IQ Crops Ltd (member of the DKG Group) say.
IQ Crops, a provider of intelligent agricultural supplies (hydroponic substrates, biostimulants, stress management factors, fertilizers) to the horticulture sector, offers additionally four different solutions: Hydroponic Strawberry, Hydroponic Greens, Medicinal Cannabis and Live Vertical Hydroponic Walls. The company with its HQ in Greece is active in Balkans & Southeast Mediterranean markets. “Many investors asked about growing solutions. Luckily, we can provide a system that takes care of everything in the growing process, making us responsible for everything and not them. All the systems inside must be in accordance with supermarket requirements for instance”, Drimtzias notes.
Christos D. Katsanos (DKG Group), Pius Floris (Plant Health Cure), Evagelos Drimtzias (IQ Crops)
In the last five years, the company has conducted consumer research to see the change in behavior towards vertical farming. “In the last six to seven months, people absolutely have, as they started cooking. They had to go outside, doing groceries, or ordering their ingredients. They selected their own vegetables and started paying more attention to quality and so. Now more focus is laid on where the food is coming from and the quality, not about the production.”
In the area where Katsanos lives (Greece), 70% of the population lives in cities. That’s IQ Crops is focusing on consumer behavior in urban areas, where 60% buys its produce from the supermarket and the other 40% at a greengrocer and street markets. “Tomatoes will always be the same to consumers, so differentiation would not make sense in this case. The only thing that’s different is the price, which could be 1 to 2 euros for a tomato. For a producer, when having invested lots of money they are aiming to differentiate products by offering different varieties and to reach their price level. In the end, it’s not that easy”, he affirms.
Katsanos says that he sees limited fresh produce in indoor farms. In North America greens belong to cold cuisine, but in the Mediterranean, more salads and colored veggies. The combination is interesting compared to the Northern ones. Next to that, the products are not attractive price-wise. “I see three categories that need to implement some improvements, one being the greenhouses. They need to invest in production sites and better sell the production sales system. The whole system must change because most don’t know what to do and they are staying in the more sophisticated areas. Either they have to change their market where they sell their products to, or they have to find new markets.
The hydroponic strawberry system
The second category, are the young growers with fewer hectares, the solo Manship. They have to better understand how to expand their businesses. The last category is the high-tech greenhouses. These growers have to double their size. All these high investments delivered lots of technology and networks, but the only way to survive and thrive is to double their surface”, Drimtzias adds.
Katsanos says: “The whole idea for us is about connecting the dots. The investor doesn’t want to know how to harvest strawberries or lettuces but they want to invest in a business with high ROI. Thus, quality aspects, expansion of products and networks. In our opinion, people don’t have any idea of doing that, but by connecting them you can see how to compete.”
IQ Crops copes to the client's needs and offers consultancy (through DKG Consulting) on how to grow produce at any location. Katsanos states that this advice will lead to the differentiation of their businesses, namely offering tailored advice based on the location and local demand of supermarkets. “We have IRTC - a fundamental research department that takes data from different companies which provides information on local demand, e.g. Ierax Analytics Co.”
The Live vertical hydroponic wall system
In the last couple of years, the company paid more attention to precision agriculture, multiplying the precision of hydroponics. The latest they have introduced in the market the Grodan Multisensor System that is connected to the main environmental computer software, which helps to provide and analyze data. “You cannot survive without data anymore. It’s not just about saving money, energy, water and fertilizer, but about sustainability. I measure, analyze and understand the cost picture”, Drimtzias says.
In the last four years, the company decided not to focus on niche markets, but expand within agriculture as most food comes from agriculture. In that direction, they started collaborating in the Netherlands with Pius Floris, a pioneer who devoted himself to soil health through mycorrhizae. This fungus is a system for organisms to better absorb nutrients which is a great sustainability way for agriculture. With his products, we are trying to invest in agriculture. We keep good ties with the Dutch horticulture approach but agriculture needs our attention.