Developing hydroponic systems for vegetables sown at high density | 2 Mers Seas Zeeën

Hy4Dense

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Developing hydroponic systems for vegetables sown at high density

Priority Axis

Technological and Social Innovation

Specific objective

Technological Innovation

Lead partner

Inagro

Date de début

01/02/2019

Date de fin

30/09/2022

Project budget

2 857 450

ERDF amount

1 714 470

ERDF rate

60%

    À propos

    Common challenge

    The program area has a strong focus on stimulating sustainable, resource-efficient production through technological improvement. Innovative production improvements by growers by introduction of novel hydroponic cultivation systems offers great potential to produce high-quality crops with reduced environmental impact. Hydroponics benefits growers by increased productivity, by improved efficient management of crop cultivation while controlling diseases that influence yield and revenue. More than 90% of greenhouse cultivation of fruit vegetables has shifted to hydroponics; leafy vegetables grown at low plant density (e.g. lettuce) are starting to implement systems. However, no straightforward solutions are available for vegetable crops traditionally densely sown in rows in the field. Investing in a novel hydroponic system developed in co-creation with the stakeholders and adequate technology transfer to adapt skills for implementation will therefore be a key output from Hy4Dense.

    Main Achievements

    The development of a hydroponic cultivation system fit for use by growers of densely sown vegetable crops is based on information from testing and exchange. This past year the focus has been on small scale experiments in search of defining the specific technological requirements for the hydroponic system. Like most projects, the Covid-19 crisis did cause some delay in testing. The two major causes were the unavailbility of test locations for months (UK) and delivery issues (mandatory closure of production facilities) in Belgium, so prototypes could not be developed and shipped to the partners. During summer and autumn partners worked hard to make up for the lost time, by testing several prototypes simulationously. The tests were done at the partner organisations and included regular feedback by breeders, growers and manufacturers via several (international) co-creation groups. These were held on-line in Belgium, the Netherlands and UK and enabled cross border exchange. Our French stakeholders attended the international co-creation group in September, as did some of our Dutch, English and Belgian stakeholders. Regular digital brainstorms helped partners exchange knowlegde on the growing proces and challenges encountered. This resulted in some of the research being conducted earlier than anticipated, as insights were needed to improve the system.

    The first phase of testing demonstrated that the tested crops cannot be treated equally in hydroponic cultivation systems. Technical specifics vary based on the crop sown. E.g. seedsizes and needed meshsize, light regimes, ideal temperatures, composition of nutrient solution etc. Germination, plantgrowth, algea growth, colouration: all aspects are monitored closely by the partners. In 2021 partners are continuing their small scale experiments, in order to find the neccesary technical requirement for each individual crop. These tests are conducted in both growing chambers (NL, UK, BE), in greenhouses (NL, BE) and polytunnels (UK). All prototypes are developed by Howest. The next steps include discussing the prelimenary results within the co-creation groups and between all partners. In the summer of 2021 larger scale pilot systems will be up and running in the UK, the NL and BE. The pilot system will be a flexible, being able to incorporate new knowledge and insights so that the system can constantly improve.

    Partnership

    Partners

    Proeftuin Zwaagdijk

    NIAB

    Howest (Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen)

    University of Essex