The Magikos Kipos facility that Andreas Lypas is showing us around is located in Kastro Viotias, Greece. "State-of-the-art," he exclaims. The foil-covered facility grows lettuce heads such as butterhead, lollo rosso, lollo bionda, and the unique "salad trio" lettuces for the Greek market. It includes a nutrient film technique (NFT) system in a moving gutter on 2.5 hectares, equipped with fans, LED lighting, and data-driven climate control. "However, technology alone does not guarantee a perfect crop; it needs great effort, attention to detail through crop walk, and proper data analysis," he sees.
"Our biggest challenge in growing is dealing with the heat during the summer. It's extremely warm, and avoiding tip burn in our lettuces is a key focus," says Andreas Lypas. Prior to joining the company as a senior head grower six months ago, he had been consulting with Magikos Kipos for two years, bringing his 7.5 years of experience in growing lettuce, strawberries, medicinal cannabis, and tomatoes in the UK. "My priority is paying great attention to detail. If you miss a tiny detail, the plant can suffer abiotically. My mission is to transfer the know-how of the high-tech horticulture industry to Greece."
He describes the peak of the summer heat in the village of Kastro Viotias, where the greenhouse is located, reaching a scorching 46 degrees this August. "Even with the cooling system installed, it was 30 degrees inside, providing challenging conditions for the plants. Although we adjusted the climate strategy, we also knew we needed more than climate solutions to help them through the summer."
"In terms of recipes,let me reveal a couple of vital tips in terms of crop growth. To be more precise I have focused on the potassium-to-calcium balance rate, as well as the oxygen enrichment of the liquid solution. Instead of longer irrigation cycles, we've switched to micro-dosing,
Andreas is also working with the foliar application of biostimulants, "We want the stomatal to remain open to maintain transpiration. Applying the microbial treatment to the leaves has worked well. It promotes osmoregulation and keeps the cell walls robust."
The company is using sensors and IoT to monitor the crop's status. "Since we're growing using NFT, there's no buffer between the irrigation solution and the plants. Plants can thrive, but a mistake in fertigation can be costly."
The adjustments in fertilizer, climate control, and the use of biostimulants have had a significant impact on the crop. "So far, we've harvested twice as much as last year. We're harvesting an average of 32,000 plants per day 55 pallets of fresh produce lettuce daily.
What's particularly important is that summer production is in high demand. "Because of the heat, it's challenging to grow outdoors in summer. But we are in Greece, and that's when the tourist season is in full swing, and all the top restaurants want us to supply them."
The company supplies its lettuces under the Magikos Kipos brand with the roots attached in pots. "After they leave our facility, they can stay alive for up to two weeks, or even three. For our clients, especially those on the islands, this is of utmost importance. Supermarkets are also happy to reduce waste and sell them with the pot attached."
Thanks to this market strategy, the company plans to expand its production by 1.5 hectares next to the current greenhouse. "Our initial goal is to harvest at least 9 million plants. With the expansion, we can scale up to 10 million. There's ample room in the market for this level of production."
For more information:
Andreas Lypas (LinkedIn)