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Nele Van Hoof: Responsible Cultivation

In June 2022, I graduated with a Master's degree in Bioscience: Agriculture and Horticulture. One thing I knew for sure after my education: I was looking for a varied job that involved both desk work and physical activity. Additionally, I had gained a broad background in the agricultural sector through my studies, which I wanted to leverage in my future job. I came across the company Den Berk Délice at a job fair, and the job vacancy for a cultivation assistant immediately caught my attention. Several interviews followed, during which I also had the opportunity to visit the greenhouse and offices. This allowed me to get to know the team I would be working with and observe how things operate within Den Berk Délice.

Every morning starts with a good morning from and to everyone, making the beginning of the workday very pleasant!

My first working day was a true "orientation day" in the greenhouse and its surroundings. I was shown where to find everything, who to approach for various matters, etc. I started with a training program as a cultivation assistant, and once I master everything, I can transition to the role of cultivation manager. Each season, due to changes in outdoor climate, presents different challenges in terms of cultivation. Experiencing all seasons and weather conditions was essential before making the transition to cultivation manager.

As a cultivation assistant, it is crucial to gain a good understanding of the condition of the plants. In other words, are they thriving, or are there signs of weakness, diseases, or pests? Learning to read a plant requires a lot of training, so I dedicate a significant amount of time to this aspect during my training. While being able to read plants is one thing, it can still be seen as somewhat subjective. That's why we also collect a lot of objective data about the plants, and I contribute to gathering this data through crop registration. However, having data alone is not enough; you need to interpret this data and then take appropriate actions to guide the plant in the right direction. This can be done through various means, including the climate computer, and fertilization also plays a crucial role in this process.

There is a strong principle of equality.

In this whole process, reasoning, which was trained in my industrial engineering education and is something I find very interesting, comes to the forefront. You make a change to the climate, but how will the plant respond? Are there other factors that still have an impact, and how do they relate to each other? This is often not straightforward and makes it very challenging! After being able to collect and interpret the data well, I will focus more on finding and implementing the right cultivation and fertilization adjustments.

The transition from student to the "working life" went very smoothly for me. I ended up in a very close-knit team and was warmly welcomed. Within the team, I found my place quite quickly. There is a great principle of equality here. At Den Berk Délice, everyone is equal, whether you are an assistant, a responsible person, or a manager; everyone is considered important. Every morning starts with a good morning to and from everyone, making the start of the workday very pleasant!

I hope to further develop myself in tomato cultivation in the near future so that when I am ready, I can make the transition to cultivation manager. The main goal for me is to work together with the entire team to ensure the tastiest tomatoes!

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