Sustainable Growing

The growing success of a happy lettuce company

25 May 2022

Hydroponic lettuce growing in Finland

When Finnish hydroponic lettuce growers Viherkaste OY found themselves facing persistent production problems, they worked with experts from Grodan to find a solution. Here CEO Erkki Nylund and Operational Manager Ilkka Saloranta discuss their journey.

Producing 5 million heads per year, Viherkaste is one of Finland’s 10 largest lettuce producers with about 5% market share. The bulk of their production is for two of the country’s largest wholesaler

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You can’t put a price on the advice we got from Grodan. We’re now better equipped to figure out other issues before they become a real problem.

Growing a lettuce grower

“My wife and I set up Viherkaste in 2007, but the greenhouses have been here since 1980,” explains Erkki. “Back then our production was mainly soil-produced, with relatively little pot production. But the company has evolved over the years. Today we produce lettuces and herbs. Most of our 1.5 hectare growing area is given over to traditional pot production. There’s also one room of stone wool production, our newest, semi-automatic lines.”

Ilkka, who has been with Viherkaste about six years, stresses that it’s still very much a hands-on business. “I started in production but today I guess I’m Erkki’s right-hand man. As Operations Manager I help manage the growing, support the workers and do some automation maintenance work. With 25 employees we’re a small company, so everyone does a bit of everything.”

We now produce more from less, making us a greener company.

A problem crops up

“We’d tried cellulose production, but this didn’t seem to work when we scaled it up,” explains Erkki. “So in 2016 we decided to start working with stone wool, using a competitor of Grodan. Unfortunately, we had a number of problems, for example with the nutrients. At the start of the gutter lettuces were good, but further down the quality deteriorated. We’d also get 2-3 months of good production, then several months where production went badly. So somewhere in 2021, we started talking to Grodan.”

It was actually a stroke of luck that brought Viherkaste and Grodan in contact with each other. Thomas Peters, Business Development Manager and technical crop expert at Grodan, heard through the grapevine of Viherkaste’s problems. He approached them to see if Grodan could help, and found Viherkaste very open to any expert input.

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