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Strawberry grower's climate chamber remains too humid, supplier must fix it

A strawberry grower engaged in growing strawberries in climate chambers and the supplier of those climate chambers faced off in the District Court of The Hague last month. The grower said the climate chambers supplied did not meet the technical requirements specified by the grower and demanded modification of the installation and compensation. The supplier disputed this.

Specifically, the issue is whether it is possible to actively control the relative humidity (RH) in the climate chambers to below 85%. In 2018, a project brief was agreed upon between the two parties stating that the RH should be controllable between 70-90%.

Once installed, this proved impossible in the summer of 2020. Air dryers were not installed in the two climate chambers. The grower could not get the RH below 85%. The grower, therefore, does not want to pay a chunk of the 140 thousand euro project before the supplier still equips the climate chambers so that the RH can drop below 85%.

The grower also wants compensation for the loss incurred in the 2020 financial year. A profit of over 68,000 euros had been counted on, but according to the grower, the failure of the climate chambers has now resulted in a loss. In the overly humid climate chamber, the strawberry plants have too little evaporation space and are restricted in their water intake, which does not help the growth and release of strawberries.

Active dehumidification
The judge concluded at the first instance on 14 September that the grower was right to ask for the climate chambers to be adjusted. According to the judge, it was clearly agreed upon what the RH requirements were. The climate chambers, equipped with 'ultrasonic humidifiers and cooling,' cannot be actively dehumidified. According to the court, the fact that the supplier points out that this is possible by cooling and possibly also heating and adjusting the air circulation is insufficient reason to leave the climate chambers unadapted. Especially when, upon commissioning by the grower, it turned out that the RH is not fully controllable between 70-90%, as agreed. The supplier is given three months to ensure that the grower can drop below 85% RH. After that, the grower must still pay the remaining amount on the invoice.

The strawberry grower's claim for €80,000 in damages was rejected. The judge takes into account that the grower is a startup with an innovative concept that is "surrounded by the necessary uncertainties." According to the judge, this makes it too uncertain to state that the stated profit would be made.