Around 1,600 brand new bananas grown on Dutch soil were harvested yesterday in the Neder Banaan greenhouse in Ede. In this greenhouse, researchers from WUR are working with Neder Banaan on new cultivation methods and new varieties of bananas that contribute to a more sustainable cultivation of bananas around the world. Harvested Dutch bananas are used as an ingredient for banana cakes and a new specialty beer. But the banana trunk and peels aren’t wasted either: the peels are made into a vegan meat substitute, and the fibers from the trunk are made into lingerie and transport pallets.
The Neder Banaan greenhouse is the first and only banana greenhouse in the Netherlands. In the greenhouse, bananas are cultivated in an innovative way. Bananas are not grown in soil, but in pots with substrate, made of coconut fibers. Lifting bananas from the ground prevents attacks from a handful of enemies such as soil fungi, bacteria and nematodes.
Save the bananas
These fungi, such as Fusarium, the cause of Fusarium wilt or Panama disease, pose a global threat to banana cultivation. WUR has therefore been exploring and researching new cultivation methods and new varieties of bananas for years. This takes place under the direction of Gert Kema, professor of phytopathology and spiritual father of the Neder Banaan. Knowledge generated by research is shared globally. “If we don’t develop new varieties of bananas and new methods of cultivation, the banana will perish,” says Kema. “For Western consumers, it may be bearable, but for over 400 million people in the tropics, bananas are their main source of nutrition. For many farmers in the tropics, it is also an essential source of income. Therefore, we really need to take action. “
Mini éclairs and banana beer
Most Dutch bananas from Ede’s greenhouse will soon be found in mini éclairs, banana cupcakes and a special banana beer. These products will be distributed to catering companies, hotels and nursing homes.
Peels on a bun
But it is not just the banana fruit that is used. Innovative companies that cooperate with Neder Banaan will use the banana peels and the plants on which the bananas grow. The zest is marinated and fried by the company Banana Business. This creates ‘Pulled Peel’, a vegan meat substitute that is delicious in salads and on sandwiches. Musa Intimates makes lingerie from fibers extracted from banana stems, and Yellow Pallet presses the fibers into transport pallets: an environmentally friendly wood substitute.
From waste to raw material
“By using waste streams, fewer new raw materials are needed,” explains Pieter Vink, director of Neder Banaan. “Of course, we are innovating on a small scale, but around the world there are huge volumes of banana plants and peels that are currently ending up in waste. We hope that our innovations will inspire banana growers around the world and contribute to a more sustainable industry. “