Together with the marketing organization Franken Gemüse, the innovative Scherzer vegetable farm has succeeded in growing arugula as hydroponics. The hydroponics are already available since the beginning of February in southern German food retail, reports Florian Wolz, managing director of Franken Gemüse.
Arugula from classic outdoor cultivation has already been under pressure for several years, says Wolz. "Increasing challenges -for example, in terms of nitrates, fertilizer regulations and plant protection- are making it increasingly difficult to cultivate arugula in southern German outdoor cultivation. Due to this, we took our pulse and looked for alternative cultivation methods, after which we ultimately decided on hydroponics."
New from southern German cultivation: Hydro-arugula in pots
High marketing potential for hydro-arugula
At the main site of the modern Scherzer vegetable farm in Dinkelsbühl, Franconia, a compartment of about 5,000m² was therefore set up specifically for arugula in its modern hydroponic facility. According to Wolz: "Although Scherzer was already cultivating several types of lettuce as hydroponics at the same location, a completely new facility had to be set up precisely because arugula cultivation involves an incomparable water circulation system and corresponding nutritional values."
In terms of marketing, Wolz sees interesting potential for arugula in pots. "Hydro-arugula has a leaf weight around 50 grams, which is about the common consumption or demand quantity in private consumption. In addition, it has a good shelf life because of the root balls, which is why it stands out from conventional arugula," says Wolz, describing the multiple advantages of hydroponics.
The Scherzer family hydroponic facility
Knoblauchsland: pioneer in hydroponics
The first hydroponic plant of Franken Gemüse was established in 2015 at the Haubner member farm. Since then, a total of three other growers - Scherzer Gemüse, Georg Boß and Gemüsebau Hoffmann - have opted for the innovative cultivation method, so that native hydroponic crops - such as colorful lettuces, lettuce and pak choi - now grow and thrive at four different locations on a total of 100,000m2.
According to Wolz, there is clearly further potential: "Lettuce is particularly in demand as a hydroponic crop because, among other things, we can guarantee consistent quality on a continuous basis thanks to the weather-independent cultivation process. In the long term, I think it should also be possible for classic outdoor crops like celery, romaine lettuce and kohlrabi. At the moment, however, we're not there yet: our task is first to communicate the added value of this novel cultivation technique and on-site production accordingly."
Images: Franken Gemüse / Scherzer Gemüse