We were brought here by our tour group as part of the Golden Circle Tour. And this is our first stop. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the owner Knútur Rafn Ármann and he talked a little about the farm.
Friðheimar is very much a family run business, by Knútur Rafn Ármann and his wife Helena Hermundardóttir. Knutur is an agronomist from Hólar University College in north Iceland, while Helena is a horticulturalist from Reykir Horticultural College. They have five children, Dóróthea, Karítas, Matthías Jens, Arnaldur and Tómas Ingi, are also part of the family business.
At Friðheimar, they grow tomatoes all year round, despite Iceland’s long, dark winters, under artificial lighting in greenhouses. Everyone is welcome to see their greenhouses, and then enjoy a taste of the crop. They also breed horses, and put on a horse show – but during our visit their horses are kept in the stable, no horses to see around.
Guess how many tons of tomatoes they harvest? It’s about 300 tons a year.
Their tomatoes are cultivated all year round using the latest technology, in an environmentally-friendly way: green energy, pure water and organic pest controls combine to produce fresh, healthful tomatoes.
Iceland’s rich natural resources help the growing of their tomatoes.
Hot water – there is plenty of hot water in the ground here. The borehole is 200m from the greenhouses and the water is about 95degC / 203degF when it enters them. In order to allow the most sunlight to enter, glass panes are only 4mm thick, therefore, a large amount of hot water is needed, about 100,000 tons per year.
Cold water – water for irrigation is from the same source as the home drinking water. Since tomatoes are about 90% water, the quality of irrigation water is very important.
Electricity – Iceland has abundant “green electricity” generated by hydro-electric and geothermal power stations. Grow lights are used in the greenhouses to ensure year-round production. Electric power used at Fridheimar is about 1,2 megawatts or about 5.3 kilowatt-hours, which is equivalent to the domestic use of a town of 3,000 persons.
CO2 – Carbon dioxide is derived from natural steam in Grimsnes, where it is then pumped into a tanker truck and delivered to the farm, where it is used to improve the photosynthesis. They use over 100 tons of carbon dioxide yearly.
Pumice – Many growers use volcanic tuff, such as pumice from Mt. Hekla, as growing media, which can be continuously used for several years. Growing in pumice makes it simpler to control moisture and fertilization than if soil is used.
The farm gets help from overseas.
Biological control – No pesticides are used here. Biological control is very effective against pests. For example, the mired bug (macrolophus caliginosus), imported from Holland, eats just about all the insect pests found in Icelandic greenhouses.
Bumble bees – Bumble bees are also imported from Holland and they pollinate the tomato plants. At the farm there are about 600 bees that work pollination the flowers, and each bee can visit up to 2,000 flowers a day.
At the farm technology lightens the load. Control computers in each greenhouse control heat, humidity, carbon dioxide and lighting. Control computers are linked with fertilizer blenders that water the plants according to a pre-determined schedule. Weather stations on the rooftops obtain information on wind speed, wind direction, temperature and sunlight. All these devices are in turn connected to the main computer, which is linked to the internet. This allows the owner to go on the internet, wherever they are in the world, and monitor status, change settings and control watering.
Have you ever been out for a meal in a greenhouse? I am not much a fan of tomato soup, but their tomato soup is delicious, accompanied with their freshly bake bread. On the tables are fresh basils plants, which you can cut yourself and add to the soup if you desire.
I would highly recommend a stop here for a meal, snack, or just to check it out.