Research project Chain-wide initiative for plant-based protein in cold greenhouses in Flanders
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Main research question
Is it economically and technically feasible to grow protein crops in temporarily empty cold greenhouses during the summer months? That is the central research question. We start from the observation that in some cases the cultivation of cabbage in cold greenhouses in Flanders is so badly affected by the fungal disease Fusarium (a strong pathogen) during the summer months that several greenhouse growers leave their greenhouses empty. The KIPEi project is investigating whether it is technically possible and economically interesting for these growers to grow edamame, chickpeas or red kidney beans.
Through a grower network, interested greenhouse growers, both conventional and organic, are helped to start growing various protein crops in their cold greenhouses. We organize meetings and visits to share experiences and give practical advice based on our own study and cost-benefit analysis. Moreover, we support chain development by holding exploratory talks with several buyers and channels. An insight into the cost price will provide the necessary basis for concretizing sales opportunities.
This research may result in a win-win: In the protein transition, food companies are looking for sources of plant protein. At the same time, several greenhouse lettuce growers are struggling to grow lettuce in the summer because of Fusarium, or greenhouse growers are on the lookout for a new crop to diversify. After the KIPEi project, new local partnerships are expected to have formed resulting in locally profitable production of protein crops in cold greenhouses.