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  • News

Grand Duke visits organic market garden

At the end of June, H.R.H. Grand Duke Henri visited the nursery "BIO-Gaart Altréier S.à r.l. " in Altrier, which was newly established at the beginning of the year, and inspected the greenhouses as well as the outdoor cultivation areas.

Also present were the Minister of Agriculture, Romain Schneider, Camille Kohn (Mayor of Bech) and the owners of the site, Maggy and Carlo Demuth, as well as Aender Schanck, representing the OIKOPOLIS Group. Their financing company OIKOPOLIS Participations SA helps to run the organic market garden through its participation.

In addition to host Willy Noesen - gardener and managing director of the BIO-Gaart company founded in January - Jeff Weydert from the nearby Fromberger Haff was also present. He has leased the greenhouses located directly behind the neighbouring NATURATA organic farm shop. While mainly organic lettuce, but also organic radishes, kohlrabi and broccoli are grown outdoors, different varieties of organic tomatoes thrive in the four heated greenhouses. During the tour it became clear to the visitors: both producers deal with the same issues...

Shortage of young people and seasonal work


Both in open field cultivation and in greenhouse cultivation, the typical area and seasonal problems of organic vegetable production are noticeable. Comparatively small areas are cultivated with great effort and harvested within a narrow time window. The seasonal increase in workload makes it difficult to recruit new staff. The head of state was also aware of this, which is why the Grand Duke specifically asked about the working conditions of the harvest workers. During the tour, a lively conversation ensued with the two helpers on site.

Climate change and energy balance


During the tour, both Grand Duke Henri and Minister Schneider gladly took the opportunity to tie their own bunches of radishes according to the instructions of the operators and, of course, to taste the popular spring vegetable. The visitors also enjoyed the greenhouse, where Jeff Weydert insists on growing a greater variety of tomatoes for the sake of biodiversity.

The remark that in this country, unfortunately, greenhouses have to be heated led to an intensive discussion about the energy supply of the organic nursery. Here, too, the head of state showed great interest. As Willy Noesen pointed out the consequences of climate change - phases of drought with alternating heavy rainfall - the rainwater collection tanks were also inspected. Most of the company's energy consumption is fed by a solar system, which complements a wood chip system.

Sales market and future issues


In addition to climate change and questions of energy sustainability, worries about young talent and social responsibility for seasonal workers, however, the financial situation also plays an important role in organic horticulture. As long as the subsidies allocated from the Ministry of Agriculture are area-bound, labour-intensive small farms like the BIO-Gaart op der Schanz can unfortunately only count on little support from the public purse. This makes help with marketing the products all the more important. This is where the OIKOPOLIS Group comes in again, this time with its subsidiaries NATURATA and BIOGROS, because part of the crops harvested "op der Schanz" is sold directly in the neighbouring NATURATA organic farm shop. The remaining production is marketed nationwide by the wholesaler BIOGROS.

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Farm data and OIKOPOLIS participation

BIO-Gaart Altréier S.à r.l. was founded at the beginning of 2021 as the successor to the "BIO-Gäertnerei op der Schanz, Altréier Sà r.l.", which used to operate there – initiated by Maggy and Carlo Demuth. The shareholders of the new company are OIKOPOLIS Participations SA as the majority shareholder, which with 90% of the company shares is also responsible for the majority of the operational investments, and managing director Willy Noesen. He holds the remaining 10% of the shares and is responsible for the operational management of BIO-Gaart S.àr.l.. With almost 12 hectares, BIO-Gaart offers sufficient space for the outdoor cultivation of various organic vegetables. In addition, there are four heatable greenhouses. Currently, only various types of organic tomatoes are grown here.