Back in 2006, four young friends decided to take a leap and start their own tomato producing company. Now, a little over 10 years later, the company has grown into the largest tomato producer in Slovakia and continues to grow and expand, both in terms of new markets, but also in new developments. From left to right, Gergely Szigeti, Vice President and Zsolt Bindics, President of cooperative GreenCoop, the owner of the brand Happy Tomato.
"We started when I was just 20, and I was selling the tomatoes from a small warehouse while still at university. Almost all industry and agriculture was destroyed when the Slovak Republic was formed, which created new opportunities. As a country, we were pretty much relying on imports for almost all fruit and veg. There were some small domestic producers, but they weren't very reliable and very difficult to work with. This is why we decided that it would be a great time to make a leap and start our own venture together growing tomatoes, and I am happy to say that it worked out really well for us." shared Gergely Szigeti, Vice President of cooperative GreenCoop.
The cooperative just finished their 10th season and currently produces their tomatoes in 20 hectares of glasshouses. Most of the tomatoes are grown with natural lighting, however, a small portion are also grown with artificial lighting in order achieve almost year round production, from October-July, for their biggest customers. Located in the southwest of Slovakia, the tomatoes are grown in Rye Island, an area known for being a mild to moderately warm climate with 2000+ hours of sunshine per year, with a vast reservoir of underground water. "We have around 20 varieties, ranging from classical big tomatoes, right down to the smallest and sweetest cherry tomatoes. The biggest difference that we have with growers in the Netherlands is that we do not use heating with gas or co-generation units, but use geothermal wells to heat our greenhouses. This means that our ecological footprint is a lot smaller and we have zero emissions. We have such low levels of CO2, that we need to introduce extra CO2 into our glasshouses so the plants can breath." said Gergely. "Demand for tomatoes in Slovakia has been changing. When we started, around 8-10 years ago, demand was almost exclusively for loose and vine tomatoes, but nowadays, consumers are keen on the smaller varieties and are looking for tomatoes which are different and full of flavour. We currently offer 20 varieties of Happy Tomatoes and are trialing some new varieties for this year. One of the new species is called 'Silky Pink', a pink cocktail on the vine, which is very juicy. I personally like it a lot. We are also trying another cocktail on the vine tomato which is completely yellow. It has a fresh citrus taste and we plan on selling these tomatoes in the shakers." said Gergely.
Cooperative GreenCoop is currently most active in the domestic market, but they also serve surrounding countries such as the Czech Republic and Hungary.
“Currently we have plans to expand our glasshouse production by 10 hectares which will position us to include markets like Romania and Croatia. However, we are keeping our options open for other markets as well." concluded Gergely.