Towards delivering on the sustainable development goals in greenhouse production systems

Dianfan Zhou, Holger Meinke, Matthew Wilson, Leo F.M. Marcelis, Ep Heuvelink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


This review evaluates the sustainability of tomato production in four greenhouse systems: high-tech (The Netherlands) and low-tech (Spain) combined with two ways of cultivation (conventional or organic). The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as defined by the United Nations, were used as a lens to assess the sustainability of these four greenhouse production systems. In total seven SDGs, including 14 targets, were assessed through 12 quantitative and two descriptive indicators. Conventional, high-tech greenhouse systems showed the greatest potential for positive contributions towards four of the SDGs. However, their relatively high energy use makes it difficult to achieve SDG7 on affordable and clean energy, where low-tech systems perform better due to lower energy use from relatively cleaner sources. Lower water use efficiency and higher nutrient losses in all soil-based cultivation systems are barriers to achieving some targets under most of the selected SDGs. Organic cultivation systems showed relatively high water and land use, based on the limited data available. Our review highlights the existence of substantial synergies, but also considerable trade-offs between SDGs. This needs to be considered when making policy, investment and management decisions related to greenhouse production.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105379
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Early online date15 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Greenhouse production
  • Quantitative assessment
  • SDGs
  • Sustainable development
  • Tomato


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