Always fresh lettuce for the international market
The Limburg-based company Lucassen Agri Cultuur is owned by John Lucassen, his wife, and his brother. ‘The company was set up in 1965 by my parents,’ says John. ‘It began as a mixed business. We took over the reins in 1985. In 1998, we started to specialize in lettuce. We now have thirteen different varieties. The demand from buyers determines which lettuces we grow. We also have an international sales market: around 95% of what we sell goes to the fresh-cut industry in the Netherlands and abroad. Our lettuce is collected by buyers from far and wide, including from France, Italy, Greece, and even buyers here in the Netherlands. And we have a good relationship with them all. We believe in the importance of having direct lines of communication and sticking to agreements. That’s our style of business.’
Summer season, high season
The spring and summer periods are the high season for growing lettuce.
John explains, ‘The first plants are planted at the beginning of March. But it’s often too cold at night for all our lettuce varieties. That’s why we cover these first plants with a horticultural fleece to give them the best possible chance to grow. The harvest season is from the beginning of May until October. We have 20 to 25 seasonal staff working for us during this period, to get the work done. We harvest with machines: a bandsaw cuts off the heads and a conveyor belt takes them to a covered work platform. This means that our staff can work at standing height and don’t have to crawl on the ground. The lettuce is checked and stacked in crates on pallets. These are then washed and go directly to the cold storage, ready for our buyers. We keep the time between harvesting and supply to a minimum, because we want our produce to be as fresh as possible. After the harvest period – in other words, during the other half of the year – we devote most of our time to maintaining the machines and contact with our customers.’
The foodservice industry
Our buyers include Dutch foodservice distributors,’ explains John.
‘They buy a mix of six types of Salanova lettuce, in six different colours. These are wrapped separately in special crates. The mix consists of small lettuce heads – these have a longer shelf life and are always fresh. Our foodservice buyers hardly throw anything away.’
Interrow cultivator, bird nets, and irrigation wells
We do all we can when it comes to sustainable business practices,’ says John.
“We cultivate with a camera-driven interrow cultivator and, if it doesn’t rain too much, we don’t need many tools to remove the weeds. In addition, we use bird nets to protect from lettuce from pigeons as well as hares and rabbits. Lastly, all of our irrigation wells have been analysed for the presence of metals and bacteria.