Expertise & research centre in New Cultivation Systems
This ERC focusses on applying innovative technology to cultivation in closed systems such as vertical farming.
New possibilities for intensive horticulture
Technological development in various fields are opening up new possibilities for intensive horticulture. The arrival of efficient LED lights with the correct wavelengths has made it possible to grow plants in closed systems. These systems enable high production volumes as the climate for the plant can be regulated perfectly. Fungal diseases have no opportunity to infect the plants and it’s hard for insects to enter the system, making chemical herbicides, pesticides and insecticides obsolete. And, because the system is closed, no CO2 is lost, and water and nutrients are recirculated.
The challenges lie mainly in assessing the numerous new possibilities for producing plants using these types of systems, for example focussing on quality and nutrients. In addition, there are also the challenges related to food safety, finding non-destructive methods to determine nutrients, monitoring the growth of plants and crops in a non-destructive way using camera and sensor technology, and data collection for machine-learning applications. There are also challenges regarding measuring and regulating nutrients in the root environment, which is often a water system. New ion-specific sensors that share data by means of IoT, might be usable in the near future. Finally, there are also challenges in developing systems for cress, microgreen and baby leaf production.
The ERC shares its knowledge with HAS students by means of guest lectures and by incorporating knowledge in the other standard teaching modules. The professor is happy to give guest lectures at other academic institutions and also at companies. HAS research ensures knowledge is both shared and generated for and with companies. Many students choose to focus their studies in this area. In Venlo, HAS is a partner of Botany and Philips in BrightBox Venlo, an open innovation centre for vertical farming. For business, there are courses in ‘cultivation without daylight’ which are given in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Venlo and Zwaagdijk, and in ‘hydroponics for high-tech horticulture’ in collaboration with and at Proeftuin Zwaagdijk. In-company courses can also be given. HAS also offers a Small Private Online Course (SPOC) in English for an international audience.
The ERC works closely together with Dutch and international businesses, academic institutions and governments, to further strengthen expertise in this field.
As professor in New Cultivation Systems, Jasper den Besten manages the BrightBox, a hypermodern research and training centre for closed multi-layered cultivation. In the BrightBox is it possible to regulate all of a plant’s growth factors. HAS University of Applied Sciences, Botany and Philips Lighting work closely together in the centre, with support from the Province of Limburg.