LANSINGERLAND, Netherlands: With its movable gutter system, Codema addresses greenhouse labour and space constraints.
Roeland van Dijk, cultivation systems account manager at horticultural engineering company Codema highlights the potential of the company’s latest movable gutter system for lettuce and herb production as it helps growers to save on water use and labour costs while the system is also beneficial to the environment.
Roeland is a grower’s son. From commencing a training contract at Codema in 1994, he developed his career evolving from junior technician to knowledgeable expert in greenhouse automation. “What I really like about my job is the collaboration between Codema and growers. Together we find out what type of innovative solutions fits best.”
For years, Codema has delivered multi-layered growing systems for ornamental plants and its succes didn’t go unnoticed in the fresh produce sector. Codema has improved its movable gutter system further. In the beginning of the growing cycle, gutters are close together while distance between them automatically increases as plants grow on. In this way, every plant is given the optimum space to grow and the total cultivation area is used as efficiently as possible.
“Codema offers a total solution, says Roeland. He adds, “Improving space efficiency, our purpose-built software calculates the use of greenhouse space and provides a complete overview of the cultivation available in the greenhouse and the growing stage of each plant. The software optimises all the moving of containers or trays with young plants in the greenhouse. It is unique in that it automises the entire process from seed to harvestable product.”
He continues, “A movable gutter system offers a logistic solution for the crops where no more treatments are required after planting, such as lettuce and herbs. In addition, thanks to the use of nutrient film techniques, the plants are given exactly enough water and fertilizer. A pump ensures that the water enriched with nutrients circulates through the root system of the plant. After filtration and re-dosing of nutrients, all the drain water is recycled. This ensures a complete water circulation. The system results in a minimum use of water and fertiliser and nothing enters the environment which does not belong there.”
As well as saving on water and fertiliser, the system also saves on labour. “Since all the containers or trays with young plants automatically move through the greenhouse, until the time of harvesting, employees are no longer required. Less manual treatments are therefore necessary and a grower ultimately saves on labour.”
Codema installs the system and also provides maintenance support. The specialised knowledge of Codema in water management, logistics, climate control, lighting, cultivation systems, software and engineering is used in order to further develop the mobile gutter system. These innovations lead to an even higher efficiency and reduction in water consumption. “Nowadays, we see that growers increasingly opt for variation in terms of lettuce or herb cultivars. As such Codema offers its customers system flexibility. For a relatively low investment they can also use the same system for a different variety of lettuce or herbs. The system is modular, meaning that more variation in crops is possible. At the moment, we are carrying out a project in China for instance, where various new techniques are being applied. I notice that there is also a great deal of demand from European countries for a modular mobile gutter system,” concludes Roeland.