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Students develop Dutch turmeric and black pepper for increasing market

During the coming year, students from the Applied Biology and Horticulture & Arable Farming study programmes will be working on a research project as part of various final-year projects aimed at achieving sustainable glasshouse cultivation and processing for spices in the Netherlands. The project, called 'NEXTGarden Ingredient Farm from East Asia to East Netherlands', is subsidised by European Regional Development Fund East Netherlands. The HAS Expertise & Research Centre in New Cultivation Systems is closely involved in the research. The first group of Applied Biology students is currently working on the development of both turmeric plants and black pepper. After the summer, Horticulture students will be responsible for the cultivation and processing techniques. Later in the project, marketing for the products will also be addressed.

Black pepper plants (front 2 rows) and turmeric plants (rear 3 rows) that are used for the research of Applied Biology.

Horticulture under pressure

According to the project plan, the reason for the project is twofold. On the one hand, the horticulture sector in the Netherlands is coming under increasing pressure due to increasing competition from abroad. Despite the premium quality of traditional Dutch products, prices are sometimes disappointing.

Growing demand for spices

On the other hand, there is an increasing demand for spices from both Western and non-Western countries. Growers in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America can barely keep up with this growing demand. The harvest is highly dependent on external factors, such as diseases and seasonal influences, which means that both the supply and the price can vary greatly. In addition, the chain is not transparent and long-distance transport is a burden on the climate.

Glasshouse cultivation of spices

Combined, these reasons make it interesting to investigate the possibilities of glasshouse cultivation of spices in the Netherlands. "This not only provides a stable supply of high-quality spices," says Jasper den Besten, professor at the HAS Expertise & Research Centre in New Cultivation Systems, "but also offers a new opportunity for the horticulture sector to promote itself with fresh quality products and to connect with the pharmaceutical industry and the nutritional supplements market. The East Netherlands was selected for the local cultivation as a result of their desire to develop their relatively small horticultural region and to give older businesses a new direction."

Turmeric and black pepper

The students are mapping out the entire chain and looking at potential areas for innovation. Preliminary research led to the selection of turmeric and black pepper as the first spices to consider. Jasper: "Turmeric is a fast-growing herbaceous plant that’s becoming increasingly hipper because of its health aspects. It’s also a major component of curry powder. Black pepper can be found in dried and often ground form in almost every kitchen cupboard, but the fresh product is a completely different experience. Both spices contain valuable ingredients such as aromas and oils that can be used as natural aromas, colours and flavours. Its components are also interesting because of their medical effect."