Four companies were the recipients of a GreenTech Innovation Award, conferred last Tuesday after the opening of the trade fair in the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre. But what is so special about their innovative products or services? We spoke with Ruud Schulte of Van der Ende Groep, winner of the Sustainability Award, and Rob Schoones of Impact Award winner Priva.
As the manager of the water treatment division, Ruud Schulte was responsible for developing the Poseidon Sodium Extractor: a BZG-certified machine that not only removes crop protection agents from drain water, but also uses membrane technology to extract sodium from it. ‘As a result, you will only need to discharge 20% of the water you would normally have to drain off. Apart from this, you can retain 50% of your nutrients, which would otherwise simply disappear into the sewer.’
Sustainable water management
The Poseidon is an exceptionally effective solution for sustainable water management and will help you save water as well as fertilizers, while ensuring that you satisfy your water purification obligation. ‘Another advantage is that this will help you keep the sodium level in your drain silo constant throughout the year. Most horticulturists will start giving their plants more water once the sodium level in the drain water becomes too high, and will keep this up until it becomes low enough. This results in fluctuations in the root environment and inhibits plant growth.’
Eight machines are currently in use for various types of crops. The users are unanimously enthusiastic – also because of the higher crop yield per square metre thanks to the Poseidon, says Schulte. ‘The machine was explicitly developed for the Dutch market, but we have noticed a great deal of interest from other countries. Too high sodium levels just as much of a problem in other countries, too! Also, farmers growing crops in arid conditions will be able to reuse water much longer thanks to the Poseidon.’
Rob Schoones is the team leader of the Priva Academy, recipient of the Impact Award. ‘The Priva Academy is a learning environment developed for the Priva organisation worldwide. At present, we are also using this environment to train our partners in the fields of Vertical Farming/Indoor Growing as well as Building Automation and Horticulture. With regard to Horticulture, we are currently using the Priva Academy training the end users, the growers, too. We do this free of charge and for all growers, even those that do not use a Priva computer. Our training covers topics like climate, irrigation, energy management and labour and cultivation registration, and starts at domain level. For instance: how do you create a climate and what does it involve specifically? And how can you respond to this with Priva equipment? Of course, growers with a different system can also translate what they learn to their own equipment.
Schoones emphasises that the Priva Academy provides e-learning courses. ‘We ask questions to help you learn, and you can keep track of your progress online where you will also find your marks after completing the course. Each course has its own discussion board. When you ask a question it will automatically be forwarded to us, as well as the course instructor. We will then make sure you get an answer as soon as possible. Other students can also respond to this question, just like in a classroom. This is virtual learning with a personal touch.’
Priva Academy is currently training 1,400 students in 32 countries. The courses are available in four languages (Dutch, German, English and French), explains Schoones – with a hint of pride resounding in his voice. ‘We will soon be adding Spanish. All of these languages are currently available in our courses for the buildings market, and we are still in the process of making them available for the horticulture sector. It is still work in progress: we have currently digitised approximately 20 to 30% of our knowledge and put this online. Our primary focus is on making new content, which is first published in English as this reaches a worldwide audience.’
Collaboration with schools
What’s new is that schools can now also make use of the Priva Academy online training courses, free of charge. ‘Of course, there are conditions associated with this, about which we make agreements beforehand. Permission to use the Priva Academy to train groups is subject to certain agreements. Additionally, our content cannot be used for commercial purposes. We also make agreements about mutual promotion. We let our growers know which schools use the Priva Academy so that they can contact a school in the Netherlands or abroad when they are looking for a work placement student. We also promote schools that offer supplementary courses for businesses and, in doing so, aim to come full circle. The idea is to bring students more closely in contact with the horticulture community and, while doing so, bridge the gap between training and practice. When we launch a new product, the course will already be available in the Academy.’
Author and photos: Mario Bentvelsen.
On 14 October 2016, InnovationQuarter organised a meeting at Koppert Biological Systems with the theme ‘Vertical Farming, in or out?’. More than 90 representatives from the sector listened to speakers such as Martien Penning (Hillenraad), Arnold van Liempt (Philips) and Jasper den Besten (HAS) talk about the opportunities, threats, benefits, costs, opportunities and challenges of vertical farming. Rien Panneman from Staay Food Group announced that a large construction for a vertical farm project in Dronten was all underway.
Martien Penning from Hillenraad gave a presentation on whether vertical farming (VF) can become horticulture’s ‘KODAK Moment’. His answer was yes. He substantiated this with an analysis of the most recent developments in the US and Asia, where dozens of VF initiatives have been rolled out. The big question was: When will VF perform as well as or better than conventional farming in greenhouses? Cost, quality, food safety and delivery speed are all key criteria here. His conclusion was not whether VF is feasible, but where and when.
Arnold Liempt from Philips Horticulture LED Solutions gave an overview of the many international vertical farming projects currently underway or being implemented. His presentation also made it clear that many there are many different models of vertical farming; from vegetable gardens under glass to cleanroom factories. An example was shown of an in-store farm with LED lighting at Metro Group in Berlin. VF in the Netherlands is still limited to research centres (Brightbox, Grow Wise Centre and PlantLab), and the propagation of seedlings, such as at lettuce grower Deliscious.
Jasper den Besten of HAS University of Applied Sciences talked about which technological developments vertical farming might accelerate. He proposed that conventional greenhouses would remain important for growing vertical crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and aubergines, while greenhouses with intermediate LED light could be seen as ‘The New Cultivation’. Just like Martien Penning, Den Besten noted that many technologies such as LEDs, sensors and robots are rapidly decreasing in price, and that this will accelerate the financial viability of VF projects, even though the cost of lettuce and herbs from VF is still considerably higher (2 to 8 Euros per kg) than those from a conventional greenhouse. On the other hand, VF projects can be better controlled in terms of colour, flavour and substances in plants. For example, the brix category of strawberries can be improved.
Ruud Kaarsemaker from Groen Agro Control discussed how nutrients could be used to control substances in plants. He said that the maximum possible returns are defined by the objectives, which might be dry matter content, substances in the produce, potassium or nitrate content, absence of residues or shelf life. The variety selection, cropping system (e.g. NFT) and recording analyses of nutrients can be used to achieve the desired objectives.
‘Alternative Thinker' Peter Jens sees VF as an opportunity to grow medicines, and therefore prefers the term ‘vertical pharming’. According to Peter Jens, we have to look at consumers differently in order to decide if VF is a beneficial cultivation system.
After the presentations, it was the turn of those working in the field, represented by Priva, Vitro Plus, Rijk Zwaan, Certhon, Plantlab and Staay Food Group. The expectation of a number of experts was that vertical farming will soon be offering plenty of opportunities for some crops and segments (the luxury segment and specialty shops and restaurants). Many flower crops and vertical crops such as tomatoes are unsuitable at the moment, but breeding and other growing techniques may eventually offer opportunities. VF definitely offers perspectives for special segments and niches in the market, but it is not yet able to compete with conventional cultivation.
Staay Food Group
To everyone's surprise, Rien Panneman from Staay Food Group announced that a large construction for a vertical farm project in Dronten for the cultivation of lettuces to supply large supermarket chains was underway. The project involves cooperation with various partners (Philips, Rijk Zwaan) and knowledge institutions (HAS, Wageningen UR). This farm will be up and running no later than June 2017, which means that VF will soon be a reality in the Netherlands. Growing in climate cells is seen as clean and food safe, something which consumers are willing to pay more for.
Anne-Claire van Altvorst from InnovationQuarter looks back on a successful day, “Many insights were presented from various quarters, as well as opportunities in many market segments. The openness we were able to create with each other was an essential element for ensuring the positive atmosphere. It was a fantastic day, and looks like it will be repeated. What is true, especially after the eye-opener from the Staay Food Group, is that vertical farming is 'in'."
Text/photos: Mario Bentvelsen.
What should you do as a European grower if you want to grow, but the local market is saturated? Then you look carefully further afield. Dutch orchid growers Ter Laak, of Wateringen and Valstar, of ’s-Gravenzande, decided to extend their business in Guatemala. With support from the Private Sector Investment (PSI) Programme run by the Dutch government their step over the ocean became a reality. In 2016 the Dutch growers, together with local partners have been working hard at their challenging role as trendsetters, both in production as in marketing.
In 2012 a Dutch trade mission was organised in Costa Rica and Guatemala. Richard and Eduard Ter Laak had already been tipped off about the opportunities in this Central American region and decided to go along. “And when you actually come in contact with local businesses, your plans quickly take shape," says Richard. “The great thing about this country is the good access: two large seaports and a short export route to the United States. From Guatemala to Miami is only two to three days by boat. And that is a market where you can still make a difference with phalaenopsis. Here too there is a growing middle class and thus increasing sales opportunities."
Despite Guatemala's attractive location, the climate (eternal spring), very competitive production costs and access to the promising markets, there was no large-scale production of phalaenopsis. The margins are interesting, but the required investment in technology and knowledge is immense: An excellent opportunity therefore for the Dutch growers.
Ter Laak (the Netherlands), Agro orchids (Costa Rica) and HFT seed services (Guatemala), supported with PSI-money, started a project: Sustainable cultivation of phalaenopsis in Guatemala. The joint venture is called Ter Laak Americas and last February it started to construct a 1 ha greenhouse in Portrero Carillo. “Building is still in full progress. This is phase 1, but in future we could grow to a total of 5 ha."
The company wants to sell the flowering plants – initially 15 to 20% of the total – locally. It hopes to sell partial adult plants into the surrounding countries. Here the growers see plenty of demand for quality products.
The same applies to cut cymbidiums. North America is a major international market for these tropical flowers and sales are expected to increase by a further 10%. Nearby Guatemala offers great logistical advantages and perfect production conditions. That’s the reason that Star Orchids and local partner Flores Bohemia opened a greenhouse in Tecpan in November 2015.
Brothers Jan and Wim Valstar had always said that they didn’t want two locations. That was until the FloraHolland Trade Fair in 2013 when they were approached by Flores Bohemia, a Guatemalan producer with at least 23 years experience. The growers from ‘s-Gravenzande were asked if they would be interested in setting up a nursery in Guatemala for cut ¬cymbidiums. Professional curiosity did the rest. Jan: “Everything was going well for us in the Netherlands and we were tempted to try something new. We are young and still want to carry on in the business. Is it a big challenge? Yes.” Under the name Holland Orchids SA, the brothers Valstar now grow seven colours of cut cymbidiums on 1 ha in Patzicia.
Holland Orchids expects to cut the first flowers in October 2016. “They are produced in a completely Dutch greenhouse," stresses Jan. “We had the greenhouse built by Dutch partners such as Stolze, VDH Plastic Greenhouses, Priva and the VB Group.”
The grower stresses the importance of cooperation with companies who have experience with foreign projects and with local parties who know the politics and culture of the country. “Everything related to the land, construction, permits and regulations is organised by our local partner. We provide the knowledge to produce an optimal crop." To run this as best as possible they hire a Dutch crop consultant who visits Guatemala a few times per year. Jan and Wim also go fairly regularly. “When I’m in the greenhouse it’s just as though I’m in ’s-Gravenzande," says Jan. "But outside it’s a world of difference. It really is a poor country, so it’s nice that we can create some employment here."
Access to climate computer
And of course there are the modern means of communication. For both companies it’s the same: the growers in the Netherlands have 24/7 access to the climate computer in Guatemala. “In this way we can check if everything is going well,” says Valstar. “But you still have to get used to that. In our own greenhouse we are in full control while in Guatemala we have to leave a lot to others. And then you notice things: What for us is self-explanatory is not known there. You have to explain literally everything. And you can’t just pop into the greenhouse to have a look. Of course, we trust the people working there, but they still have a lot to learn regarding cultivation. Then the distance can be quite difficult."
Richard ter Laak agrees that the distance and the associated time difference are the biggest hurdles. “Once a month I go and check the situation in Guatemala. It’s a massive journey. First, an eleven hour flight to Panama, then another 2.5 hour flight to Guatemala and lastly a 2.5 hour drive to the building site. If I leave in the morning I arrive in the hotel late in the evening. I can also do business via email or telephone but then we have to arrange everything before 11 o’clock in the morning. Then it’s night in the Netherlands and when we get up they are asleep. The lapse between question and answer is therefore an impractically long time.”
Long term gain
Very occasionally, the Dutch growers have contact with each other about Guatemala but most of the issues and challenges are handled by the local partners. But they are unanimous about one thing: The future. That looks very promising in Guatemala. Richard: “We are situated in very good locations: in the dry corridor, on a high plateau. We also have cool nights so all-in-all excellent growing conditions for phalaenopsis. I’m confident that we can produce high quality flowers and plants here. Of course, it’s a big undertaking. At the moment we are only increasing our business risk. But over the long term, this investment should contribute significantly to being able to spread our risk.”
Brief look at Guatemala
The Republic Of Guatemala in Central-America borders Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. It has a very varied landscape. In the middle and Northwest is a high plateau with mountains and volcanic peaks rising to over 4,000 metres altitude. The southern coastline and the west of Guatemala are relatively flat and are intensively used for producing sugarcane, fruit and cattle.
The capital of the country is Guatemala City. Patzicia, where Holland Orchids is located, is around 75 kilometres west of the capital at 2,200 metres altitude. Portrero Carillo (Ter Laak Americas) is 1,800 metres above sea level and is located about 100 km east of the capital.
The climate in Guatemala has a wet season (May-October) and a dry season (November-April). Although the country is in a tropical climate zone and is mostly warm and sunny, local weather conditions can differ significantly, in particular due to the large differences in altitude.
In Quetzaltenango (2,200 metres altitude) for example, it is not unusual to have night frost during October to December. The climate at this high altitude is just right for phalaenopsis cultivation: cold nights, not too warm during the day and lots of light. On the other hand, not far to the south the temperature rarely falls below 15ºC.
With an area of 108,889 km2 Guatemala is about two and a half times the size of the Netherlands, and has ± 12 million inhabitants. With a growing population of middle-income earners it is not among the poorest countries in the world. However, the money and the power are in the hands of a small number of elite so almost three quarters of the population does live below the poverty line.
The economy is heavily reliant on the traditional agricultural sector. About 70% of the total exports are of agricultural origin and one in two workers is involved in the agricultural sector. Agriculture amounts to a quarter of GDP and industry a fifth. Another important source of income is the money sent home by Guatemalans working in the US.
The combination of Guatemala and phalaenopsis works. The country’s climate is perfect for growing and the marketing opportunities are good. Both locally and in the neighbouring countries the demand for good quality plants is growing. Both Ter Laak and Star Orchids recently built a second greenhouse in this country. The growers expect that with their Dutch know-how and technology and with help from local partners they will be able to establish a good business.
Text: Jojanneke Rodenburg
Images: Leo Duijvestijn
Priva won the GreenTech Innovation Award 2016 yesterday at the international trade show in Amsterdam. The company was the winner in the category Equipment as well as the overall winner, beating a total of 73 entries. With the robot, christened Kompano at the Priva stand, deleafing tomato plants can be done completely automatically and profitably for the first time.
The prize was awarded during the opening of the GreenTech on 14 June by the chairman of the jury, Aalt Dijkhuizen. In the jury’s opinion, the robot is an innovative solution for tomato growers for the difficult work of deleafing. The robot is able to do it entirely independently. In addition, it is an economically appealing alternative. Because it very accurately removes the leaves from tomato plants, viruses do not get a chance to spread.
The development of the robot took at least 15 years. Priva developed the robot in cooperation with a large number of growers, so the product has received ample field testing. The jury views Priva’s innovation as the start of a large series of robots, which will be developed for horticulture in the coming years to efficiently take care of strenuous work. They therefore identified the Priva deleafing robot as heralding the beginning of a new era for international horticulture.
Thanks to the most up-to-date vision technologies, the robot can work day and night. This allows the robot to work, on average, just as fast as a human. The accuracy of deleafing is about 95%. Three growers from the consortium that developed the robot - Lans, Prominent and Vereijken Kwekerijen - will be the first to start working with the robot. From June of 2017 on, the robot will also be available to growers outside the consortium. Pre-orders may be placed online.
Priva will put the robot on the market as a service, so that growers will be able to benefit from the innovation immediately, without incurring high investment costs. With this first generation of the deleafing robot, 0.75 to 1 hectare of tomatoes can be serviced. For larger growing surfaces several robots will be needed, or it can be combined with manual labour.
Two more winners
In addition to Priva, the international jury also awarded two nominations with a category Award. ISO Group won a prize in the category Production and the HortMax-Go! by Ridder HortiMax Group won in the category Automation Solutions. The ISO Plant sampler is able to independently take samples from leaves and collect the DNA material on a microplate. In the jury’s opinion, the ISO Plant sampler offers a great, automated technique that enables work to be carried out fast and with precision.
According to the jury, the HortiMaX-Go! is a modern, user-friendly, affordable climate control and greenhouse irrigation computer. The modular system uses smart switches that can be installed in a plug-and-play manner. The innovation is intended to be entry level, so that growers all over the world will be able to use this technology.
Photo: Mario Bentvelsen.
A shortlist of nominees, all but two of them Dutch, has been announced for the GreenTech Innovation Award 2016. An international jury has selected a shortlist of 15 nominees from 73 entries in three categories: Production, Equipment and Automation Solutions. One of these three winners will be chosen as the overall winner on June 14, during the opening event of GreenTech Amsterdam.
“As jury, we are very pleased with both number and quality of the applications for the GreenTech Innovation Award 2016. It shows the high level of innovation in the greenhouse horticulture sector”, said jury chairman Aalt Dijkhuizen, former president of Wageningen UR and appointed by the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs as figurehead of the Topsector Agri & Food in the Netherlands.
Shortlisted in the Production category are:
- RootmaXX by Saint-Gobain Cultilene - a new stone wool cube which claims to give a 5-25 per cent higher root mass thanks to a newly patented fibre.
- ISO Cutting and Planting robot 1800 by ISO Group - which automatically analyses the geometry of a stem, cut the stem to the right length and plants it in a pot.
- ISO Plantsampler by ISO Group - which automates the gathering of DNA material from the leaves of trial seedlings.
- GrowCoon by Maan BioBased Products - a biodegradable plug casing which help keeps the root ball together.
- Biospreader by Royal Brinkman - which provides a uniform distribution of predatory mites in the crop.
Shortlisted in the Equipment category are:
- 2SaveEnergy covering by 2SaveEnergy - a twin-skinned glasshouse covering claimed to combine high insulation and light transmission with an affordable.
- Triton Bioreactor by Van der Ende Groep - a biological treatment which yields clean irrigation water rich in oxygen and microbial biodiversity.
- AntiReflect by Mardenkro - a glass treatment which can be applied to existing greenhouses.
- NUF water recycling by NUFiltration (Israel) - which enables purification of irrigation water without use of chemicals, thermal or biological treatments.
- ValkScreenVision by Van der Valk Horti Systems - a quick, clean and safe system for inserting glasshous screens.
- Priva Deleafing Robot by Priva - a robot which removes leaves from tomato plants completely independently and in an economically profitable manner.
Shortlisted in the Automation Solutions category:
(with one remaining undisclosed)
- Paskal Growth Analyser by Paskal Technologies (Israel) - a wireless weighing system to continuously monitor plant growth in the glasshouse.
- C.H.I.M.P (Crop Health & Information Monitoring Platform) by Phenokey - which measures control and plant health parameters for remote monitroing and decision support.
- HortiMaX-Go! by Ridder Hortimax Group - a user-friendly and affordable horticultural computer for controlling both greenhouse climate and irrigation.
All nominated products will be on display at GreenTech's InnovationLAB.
Source: GreenTech. Photo: Mario Bentvelsen.
Marius Mans of Mans Flowers is one of the first growers in the Dutch ornamental plant cultivation sector to firmly adhere to the guidelines of the Next Generation Growing. "You become more conscious of your energy usage and that leads to savings. But optimizing growth remains the primary objective."
Modern growers are increasingly becoming entrepreneurs who must know all about the many aspects of a modern greenhouse cultivation company. "Nowadays, regulation and control by a climate computer play an essential role in any of the larger companies", says Mans. However, despite that fact, he believes that having green fingers is still very important. "Certainly in the case of the Next Generation Growing, it is about making the right observations and using this information to choose the correct settings at the right time."
"Insight into every detail of the plant's growing process leads to many other opportunities."
In the last few years, Mans Flowers has developed the Next Generation Growing even further. He became more aware of his energy consumption, which was the first step towards making savings. However, the biggest added value is the optimal growth that he has experienced. "An optimal greenhouse climate greatly improves quality. I can now also deliver top quality products during the more difficult growing periods in the year. Insight into every detail of the plant's growing process leads to many other opportunities."
Balanced greenhouse climate
Mans has recently switched to Priva for his climate control needs. "I have made that choice because it gives me more options to achieve the ideal, balanced greenhouse climate. I get calculations in advance based upon a variety of parameters. And that helps me to take the right decision at the right time in order to achieve my goal."
"A lot of knowledge has been gained about biological control in the Netherlands, which has given us an advantage over growers from other parts of the world."
Fighting diseases and pests also has a very high priority, says Mans. "The gerbera is a bushy plant with a lot of leaves close to each other, which makes it difficult to treat diseases and fight pests. For that reason and also because we want to demonstrate corporate social responsibility, biological control is extremely important. It has to do with having the right balance and an integrated approach. A lot of knowledge has been gained about biological control in the Netherlands, which has given us an advantage over growers from other parts of the world. That helps us to be able to hold and improve our strong position in the future."
Houweling's Tomatoes in Camarillo, California has been showered with awards for its sustainable approach. Many of the techniques for saving water and energy are new to the American horticulture industry and a source of inspiration for fellow companies.
"Going green" can be a successful economic strategy that leads to sustainable growth, the jury said at the presentation of one of those awards. That accurately sums up the vision of Casey Houweling, owner of Houweling's Tomatoes. "What sustainability is to us is a combination of caring for our planet - which we will leave to our children - and commercially viable solutions for growing healthy, delicious tomatoes," says the grower.
In this family, the innovative entrepreneurial spirit is passed from generation to generation. His father, a Dutch immigrant, built a horticultural company in British Columbia with years of hard work. Son Casey continued where his father left off and now has locations in Canada and the USA. While the company may now be significantly larger, one thing has not changed: the ambition to be in the vanguard of sustainability and produce top quality tomatoes.
Semi-closed Ultra Clima greenhouse
The location in Camarillo has 125 acres of greenhouses, with around 40 acres' worth of the semi-closed type that have few windows that open and instead have air handling units to regulate the greenhouse climate. "This type of system makes use of many fans which requires considerable additional electricity," says Richard Vanderburg, energy and water conservation manager. "That is why we installed five acres of solar panels over the water basins in 2008. This was attractive because the State of California provides a 50% subsidy."
"What sustainability is to us is a combination of caring for our planet - which we will leave to our children - and commercially viable solutions for growing healthy, delicious tomatoes."
Until then, the heat required for the greenhouses had been provided by gas boilers, but that is not the most efficient use of energy. "With a combined heat and power (CHP) system, because it simultaneously produces heat, electricity and CO2, you can utilize practically 100% of the energy. There is no longer any waste. We have Casey Houweling's enthusiasm to thank for the fact that we now have three 4.4 MW CHP units."
The cogeneration technique is still not all that common in the USA. The technique has been used for the combustion of gas extracted from garbage dumps and waste-water treatment, but it is virtually unheard of in horticulture.
Selling back to the grid
Purchasing the CHP system was the easy part. "Much harder were the negotiations to sell the generated electricity back to the grid. The regulatory environment was difficult. It took us three years to win that battle," says Vanderburg.
Another challenge was the interplay of boiler, combined heat and power units, solar panels, heat storage and assimilation lighting. "At certain times, exporting to the grid has a strong commercial position - in the summer the peak rate period is between noon and six in the evening - so we run the CHPs at their maximum and we can make good use of the produced CO2 at that time. Export is therefore given priority over our own use, for lighting as an example. The heat is stored in the buffer. The buffer charging must be done in such a way that the CHPs can run at full capacity during the lucrative hours. If, on the other hand, the heat demand cannot be met entirely with the CHPs, the boiler has to kick in," he says.
"We harvest rainwater from the roof, and we collect the condensation water from the CHPs. We don't waste a drop here."
Designing a system to control all this is very complicated, and therefore Houweling's called in world-class specialist Priva. The choice was made for a very user-friendly solution. Everything is presented graphically on the computer screen; this insulates the operator from most of the complex process coordination taking place in the background. "There is very little that has to be done manually," the manager realizes. "And the system stores all the data, which is useful because we not only need it for our own analyses but also for the energy subsidy. Working with Priva has been a pleasure. Project engineer Richard Zeeuw found smart solutions to meet all of our needs and made it very easy to operate." To integrate all the new technologies, John van der Wilk of Priva Business Solutions was closely involved in discussions with the local power company and the contractor.
Houweling's is not only very progressive in its approach to energy but also in how it handles water. "Water scarcity is a major and ever-growing problem in California. We do have our own well, but we are only allowed to extract a limited amount of groundwater," says the manager. "Therefore we capture as much water as possible. We harvest rainwater from the roof, and we collect the condensation water from the CHPs. We don't waste a drop here."
The plants get the water they need: with the Priva computer we can dose the water based on the measured evaporation, enabling us to provide the exact amount of water needed. The evaporation is measured through continuous monitoring of the weight of the substrate mats. The drain water is recirculated to the extent possible, and potential contamination issues are ruled out by disinfecting the return water before reuse.
This efficient use of water has also played a role in the sustainability awards the company has received. "We do everything possible in the current situation," tells Vanderburg. "But we are already pursuing a new initiative: obtaining purple water from the treatment plant three miles away. That water is currently being discharged to the ocean after treatment, but we could put it to good use. With reverse osmosis we can make it suitable for cultivation. In time, this could completely offset the water we currently extract from the well."
Priva introduced Priva Alarms, an app with an alarm function, at the Gorinchem Horticulture Business Days. The app displays an overview of any alarm notifications emitted by the user’s Priva systems.
The app is easy to use and provides a clear overview and, more importantly, peace of mind. As detailed information is available directly on the screen, users will be able to see straight away what actions are needed. An alarm signal is given whenever a Priva computer at the user’s horticultural business has been inoperative for more than fifteen minutes. The alarm history can be retrieved via the app and the alarm signal can be switched off at all times by remote.
Easy to use
It takes just a few simple steps to install the Priva Alarms App. Simply select your preferred subscription type, connect the sites, link your Priva systems and enable your co-workers to access the app by registering them as well. The Priva Alarms App can be obtained in the iOS, Windows and Android App Stores.
The introduction of Priva’s Vialux M-Line has put water disinfection using UV light within the affordable reach of every horticulturist. UV disinfection will enable major improvements to be achieved in the field of disease control, efficient water consumption and compliance with increasingly stringent food hygiene regulations.
The Priva Vialux M-Line decomposes all organisms that are alive in the irrigation water used in the horticulture industry, such as fungi, bacteria and viruses. This applies equally to fresh irrigation water and recirculated drain water. UV disinfection makes it possible to safely reuse water for longer periods of time. Furthermore, this will ensure a more efficient use of costly fertilising agents, as these will no longer be discharged into the drain.
The Priva ViaLux M-Line is based on medium-pressure UV technology, which is new to the horticulture industry. The system is made up of multiple disinfection chambers, whose number depends on the size of the farm or company. In this way, every grower will be able to order a custom solution and the system can cost-efficiently grow in proportion to the business.
As the UV lamp, quartz tube and UV sensor can be replaced by the growers themselves, there is no need to call in a technician for simple repairs. Maintenance is easy, too: rinsing with acid is enough to remove any deposit from the quartz tube. The Priva ViaLux M-Line can be used as a stand-alone system or linked to process computers from various manufacturers.
Every time the system is started up, the UV sensor determines the water’s UV transmittance and adjusts the disinfection process accordingly. This enables all hazardous organisms to be decomposed, while no energy is lost due to a capacity surplus. The system is protected against lamp failure, overheating, running dry and peaks and troughs in the electricity mains. According to Priva, the Vialux M-Line will allow growers to easily comply with all existing and future statutory regulations in the field of water and food safety, and at the lowest possible cost per cubic metre of water.
Royal Pride is one of the few companies in Holland that is allowed to display the Milieukeurmerk (Dutch quality mark), so the bar on food safety has been set high in Middenmeer. 'The first step in striving for the lowest possible amount of crop protection agents is to prevent diseases in the crop. A good climate computer system is essential here', says tomato grower Frank van Kleef.
Royal Pride recently switched to a different climate system and a different supplier. Co-owner Frank van Kleef explains the motivation for teaming up with Priva. 'In terms of development the Connext from Priva is much more advanced than other systems. It allows us to grow crops more energy efficiently and make advances in terms of production. This allows you to successfully recoup this type of investment. The new system also has an advantage in the field of food safety, as a good growing climate produces healthier plants with higher resistance.'
'It is, and remains, the green-fingered grower who can best decide whether or not the plant is happy.'
It is an essential aspect of the operational safety Royal Pride continuously strives for. 'We've come a long way in that field. With the current size of tomato companies like ours, that safety is very important. When we switched to the new climate system we had good reason to include a loop so that the necessary back-up was available at all times.'
Technical developments provide added value, but Frank van Kleef does not believe that automation will make expertise superfluous in the future. 'The grower's judgement will always be very important.' At the company in Middenmeer 3500 sensors have been installed to measure all kinds of things. 'But it is, and remains, the green-fingered grower who can best decide whether or not the plant is happy.'
'A development such as Next Generation Greenhouse Cultivation is promising but keeps shifting because technology keeps changing.'
However, due in part to the technological developments, that grower has regularly changed the way they work over the past 20 years. 'A development such as Next Generation Greenhouse Cultivation is promising but keeps shifting because technology keeps changing. We need to continue improving. While 20 years ago we grew 40 kg of tomatoes with 60 cubic metres of gas, today we grow 70 kg with just 35 cubic metres.'
Source/photo: Priva/The Grower Files.