From diffuse to AR to low-E glass?

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When the greenhouse construction sector faces difficulties, glass suppliers immediately feel the impact. “The market was down, but now it faring much better,” observes Michael Schmitz from Horti Glass.

However, the founder and director of the Westland specialist in horticultural glass is still keeping a low profile at the end of February. “Just when things were calming down after corona and the outbreak of wars, you had the conflict in the Red Sea… Fortunately, 2024 is already looking a lot better than the past two years.”

In the coming period, Michael and his team will be discussing new projects with greenhouse builders. “This is the time when decisions about new projects are made. Our glass supply for new construction projects always goes to greenhouse builders.”

The Netherlands drives innovation in glass production in China
The glass supplied from ‘s-Gravenzande mainly comes from China. “That is really the world player in terms of glass.” Interestingly, but not surprisingly, for those aware of the Netherlands’ global role in horticultural technology, companies like Horti Glass inform Chinese producers about the innovations in demand.

Around the time Horti Glass was founded in 2011, the demand mainly revolved around diffuse glass. Michael was instrumental in the rise of diffuse glass in horticulture. “On behalf of another company, we supplied diffuse glass with an AR coating on a large scale for the first time in 2008 at Pieter van Gogh. Since 2012, we have been supplying that special glass directly from China, where I have maintained good relationships with solid partners since 2004.”

Diffuse glass

From diffuse to AR to low-E?
In ‘s-Gravenzande, they focus mainly on the ‘top segment’ of the market. This means that Michael and his team closely monitor innovations in glass, and where possible, want to be at the forefront. “That was the case with diffuse glass. In the early days, there was little knowledge, and I spoke a lot with growers and consultancy firms. At Pieter van Gogh, I even conducted various measurements weekly for two years to closely monitor how the crops performed under diffuse glass. I did the same for other projects at the time.”

This is no longer an issue, Michael notes. “Diffuse has been approved by horticulture. This means that my advisory role in this is less needed.” A new development in which the market has shown interest in recent years is low-E glass. “We have not been the frontrunner in this, but we do keep a close eye on developments with our partners, and we are also working on low-E glass ourselves. If innovation continues, we want to be able to provide our customers with this.”

Michael does not yet know whether low-E glass will gain as much momentum as earlier diffuse glass and later AR-coated glass. “Because of the high energy prices, energy saving is a topical issue, but I think it is still a matter of finding the right balance between what you filter out in terms of light and the cost savings in energy that it yields.”

Diffuse glass+AR

Delivering added value amidst increasing competition
The glass specialist is going to China again in early March to discuss the latest glass developments with solid partners. Can you still get more out of the same, out of ‘just a piece of glass’? Michael is sure of it. “Consider, for example, even better light transmission through low-E on the one hand and an AR coating on the other. Together, we are always looking for the optimal balance.”

At the same time, next to horti R&D, there’s also the actual greenhouse construction side of it. Horti Glass leverages its network of domestic greenhouse builders, and a large tomato greenhouse expansion is already on the agenda for this year.

Depending on which crop facilities are mainly built for, they can see whether there is more demand for AR-coated glass or not. “If you’re growing tomatoes, the need for light is simply greater than for some potted plants. Therefore, the demand for specific types of glass always comes in waves. Where they have performed well, construction occurs, and that typically also entails a specific glass demand.”

It’s up to Horti Glass to ensure glass availability of all types, sizes, and specifications. “We deliver what the market asks for, but we distinguish ourselves by doing more than just that. We stay involved in innovations and developments. In a market that has seen more competition since our founding, that is precisely our added value.”

For more information:
Horti Glass
Franklinstraat 3c
2691 HB, ‘s-Gravenzande
Tel.: +31 (0)174-820223
[email protected]

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