Over the last few months, Iribov has given its laboratory a substantial upgrade and has expanded the greenhouse facilities considerably. The glass building in Heerhugowaard (Netherlands) has grown to nearly a hectare and with 21 distinct departments it offers a wide range of applications. "This enables us to offer our customers new possibilities and we are expanding our service portfolio," says commercial director Kees Veldhuijzen.
Iribov has in-house specialized knowledge and techniques in the field of breeding and propagation. Customers with all sorts of specialist questions can go there, especially when it concerns crops that are difficult to propagate. "More than 80 percent of our assignments consist of supplying tissue culture, because our customers themselves have good facilities for hardening off. For a number of customers, however, we do offer this service and we see the need for this growing among our customers. With these expansions we are responding to a need."
A breeder may have several reasons for using the Iribov greenhouse departments. "In some cases he simply does not have the optimal facilities and/or the required high-tech to speed up his process," says Kees. "Besides, because of the close link with the lab, we can be an interesting party. We are often complementary. The client has his own program, but outsources a part of it, a specific research question or a test to us. Certainly where it concerns the somewhat more complex breeding, when, for example, close observations in the early stages can make a big difference, we can help out."
Each one of the departments is unique, depending on the wishes of the customer and the requirements of the crop. A part is equipped with ebb and flood floors, another part with cultivation tables; a third is equipped with LEDs, a fourth of a combination of LEDs and SON-T. There are with and without screens, heated and cold areas, there is even one that is open. In addition there is also a container field. Apart from hardening off, for example, the organization of flowering trials is a possibility, something for which there is also an increasing demand. "The great advantage of organizing this with us is the fact that we do not have an interest in it. We do not have our own varieties, nor our own breeding. Everything that we do is commissioned by third parties. Independence is guaranteed."
And then there is another reason for the investment. It is not only a matter of responding to the current demand, but also of anticipating to that of tomorrow. It increases the range of services, the number of jobs that we can handle and the possibilities to move optimally with sub sectors (in spring Iribov has more demand from the bedding plants, in autumn the demand from the fruit peaks, etc.). "Moreover, also in floriculture you see a shift from breeding directed to external characteristics to a breeding that focuses more on resistances. This requires a different specialism, for example you have to develop tests for this and you will benefit greatly from a sterile environment and quarantine possibilities. Not everyone can provide that, but we can."
Requirements from the market are changing, and that is reflected, among other things, in certifications. Increasingly more value is being attached to 'clean' starting material, and traceability is no longer just a wish in the market, but a necessity. With ever more demands from Europe and other agencies, you see that the market is responding to this with certifications. An example of this is Naktuinbouw Elite, a quality mark specifically intended for starting material. Iribov is now allowed to carry this label on all material that has been propagated in the company.
Finally, it is nice to mention that Iribov is currently also installing a number of phytotrons. A phytotron is a climate cell, a kind of hybrid between a greenhouse and a lab. Here all cultivation facilities such as lighting, temperature and irrigation and nutrient provision are fully controlled, but the cultivation takes place on substrate and the environment is not sterile. These departments, which are often used in multi-layer cultivation, are suitable for various research questions and for carrying out specific techniques (such as making DHs [double haploids], a technique with which pure parental lines can be obtained very quickly). "Two have been completed," Kees concludes, "six or seven will follow."