With ‘Responsibly Fresh’, the fruit and vegetable producers and their cooperatives – associated within VBT, the Association of Belgian Horticultural Cooperatives – have made collective efforts towards sustainability. They first looked at getting their own businesses in order. By obtaining the necessary certificates and inspections by external parties, they’ve been able to show meaningful progress. After 6 years and 3 sustainability reports, it is now time to come into the open.
The word “cooperative” means working together. This is what the fruit and vegetable producers do. Instead of selling their products on the local and international markets individually, the mainly family-owned businesses have grouped themselves together and formed cooperatives.
Through their sustainability efforts, fruit and vegetable producers and their VBT cooperatives make an important contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
From 2019 onwards, the fruit and vegetable producers and the VBT cooperatives will promote their sustainability efforts under the slogan ‘Goodness by nature’. The aim is to emphasise that their products, which are naturally healthy, are being produced with minimal impact on the environment.
Where and when possible, the fruit and vegetable producers and their VBT cooperatives will approach other stakeholders in the market to establish initiatives that will encourage healthier eating and continued sustainable development. In cooperation with the different links in the value chain.
A priority for the fruit and vegetable producers and their VBT cooperatives is encouraging consumption of their healthy and sustainable products, as well as promoting food thrift, out of respect for its inherent value and in cooperation with the consumer.
The fruit and vegetable producers and their VBT cooperatives are inspired in their sustainability efforts by the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. In fact, they’ve highlighted eight, in cooperation with the world community.
Because energy and heating oil are so expensive, my farm has been looking for an alternative way of producing energy and heat. We have planted 1.3 hectares of Miscanthus, also known as elephant grass, and this is now replacing 8,000 to 10,000 litres of heating oil. This represents a quarter
We grow vine tomatoes on our farm. When we are harvesting and grading them, we always end up with a few loose tomatoes. These tomatoes are fine from the quality point of view, but they have come loose from the vine and sell for a lower price. The challenge for
On our farm, we invested some years ago in a biogas installation. This means that we can put the chicory roots after the forcing process to good use. When we harvest the endive we end up with about 12 tons of waste roots every day. These roots are chopped up
To achieve good yields of pome fruit and cherries, proper pollination is essential. Because the pollination of the blossoms has been more and more difficult in recent years, we decided to take part in the project ‘More nature for flavoursome fruit’. As part of the project, we planted a 300-metre
We grow three crops on our farm. In our greenhouse, we produce cucumbers year-round, plus we grow blueberries and kiwiberries. The blueberries are covered over with polytunnels for five to six months per year. To reduce consumption of tap water and groundwater on our farm, we collect as much rainwater
We have had a tray field for seven years now. The water shortage two years ago gave us the idea to collect and reuse the water from the tray field on our farm. Now, the water from the tray field is collected in a 4,000 m³ tank and then purified.
Being on a mixed farm with pretty high energy consumption, we decided, when we were building our new dairy barn, to fit a 9.7 kW microdigester. This means we can use the fresh manure from the cows to generate some of the energy needed. The manure is collected and digested in
Storing our apples and pears is very expensive. That’s why we have taken measures on our farm to drive the costs down. The cold rooms have switched from freon to ammonia cooling. This is more energy-efficient and more benign for the environment. Some rooms have also been fitted with extra
On our 9-hectare cucumber farm, we have installed 3 CHP units. Each one consists of a motor which is linked to a generator which produces electricity. The electricity is either used in the greenhouse or fed into the grid. The cooling water from the motor heats the greenhouse. The
As a fruit farm, we are very attentive to the diversity of our workforce. For some years now, we have been employing people who live in Belgium but originate from elsewhere. To help the workers to communicate with each other, we have been involved in the government diversity plan. For
The main crop on our farm is strawberries, which we grow under cover on a substrate. Ten years ago we decided to diversify. So as well as strawberries, we are now growing various kinds of soft fruit, such as blackberries, red currants and raspberries, also under cover. To keep ourselves
We strive on our farm to minimise our business waste. For example, when we grow our tomatoes we use an organic substrate and biodegradable cover. The planting process and fertigation are different from when a rock wool substrate is used, but the production is the same. The substrate is easy
VBT rolls out renewed sustainability strategy Sustainable development is a dynamic and very topical subject: it affects us today,
Over recent years, the Belgian fruit and vegetable cooperatives, better known as ‘the auctions’ and their growers, have