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.’
Be sure to read our interviews with the other winners.
Author and photos: Mario Bentvelsen.