Bariloche, March 2020 – In the remote areas of Patagonia, finding high-quality fruit and vegetables is one of the main challenges for 5-star hotels and restaurants. Cristina Lopez, owner of Villa Beluno, is therefore not only host and chef, but also agricultural specialist responsible for a 120-sqm large hydroponic greenhouse.
In July 2019, in the middle of the Patagonian winter, the boutique 5-star hotel Villa Beluno opened its door after a total of 6 long years of construction. The heart and soul behind this magical project is the owner Cristina Lopez. Together with her daughter Sabrina, she runs this 14-suites and 2-restaurants hotel, ideally located on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi at the beginning of Peninsula San Pedro, just 19 km outside of Bariloche.
The discovery of her passion for food and its preparation is one of the earliest memories that Cristina has. From the age of 3, she always helped her Spanish-born grandmother in the kitchen. The dishes that she used to prepare with her grandmother left everlasting impressions and still now have influence on her creations. But for Cristina not only the loving and passionate preparation of the food is important. “The kitchen must start with excellent raw materials to serve superlative dishes”, she says, “Here in Bariloche we do not have huge fruit and vegetable markets. With such limited choice, finding first-grade products is a real challenge. Therefore, it became a necessary condition to grow our own products.”
Out of this realisation, the hotel’s own hydroponic greenhouse was born. The 8 by 15 meters’ iron profile structure is completely covered by double glassing in order to contain as much warmth in the cold winter months as possible and to guarantee consistent production all year round. Together with one other employee, Cristina is in charge of making sure that every square metre of the greenhouse is used as effectively as possible.
According to Cristina, “the hydroponic technique allows the cultivation of organic vegetables in much smaller spaces than in conventional methods, it is about using a substrate, and through the circulation of water with nutrients the plant grows in a controlled environment. This technique, in addition to allowing greater production per square metre, allows significant water savings, which is extremely important in a world in which it is essential to care for natural resources.”
With this in mind, Cristina is already in full production for the upcoming winter season: amongst others there are currently over 200 salad and 100 spinach plants growing in the greenhouse, over 20 tomato plans of various different sorts of tomatoes as well as different basil varieties and 30 strawberry plants. However, the range of plants does not stop there: an assortment of different herbs and spices is also cultivated in the glass-house, as well as flowers that are used for the decoration of the served dishes.
In the short time of being in operation, the hydroponic greenhouse has not only proven itself already as the best way of securing excellent produce for the kitchen of the Villa Beluno, it has also been able to establish itself as a highlight for most guests visiting the hotel. Nearly on a daily basis there are guests who ask for a tour of the greenhouse with either Cristina or her gardener.
About Villa Beluno
Whether you desire a family retreat or a romantic get-away, when you are welcomed into Villa Beluno, you are enticed to create memories that will stay with you forever. This delightful villa was created from the bottom of the heart with the ambition of awakening your senses. Here, carefully designed architecture meet the natural beauty of the Lake Nahuel Huapi just a stone’s throw away from Bariloche. The villa boasts 14 beautifully decorated suites, all with spectacular views of the Lake Nahuel Huapi and private terrace, 2 restaurants, a tea lounge, bar and an exclusive spa.
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