The sixth edition of the AIPH-approved horticultural technology shows GreenTech welcomed 11,500 attendees from 128 countries, an attendance increase of seven per cent on 2022 figures. Five hundred forty greenhouse builders, horticultural engineering and lighting companies, substrate suppliers, service providers, trade associations and research institutes showcased new products and services with green professionals eager to discover what technologies work for them. Writers Lorenz Wieland and editor Ron van der Ploeg provide this review for FCI.
As China’s reopening gains momentum after three long years of Covid-19 restrictions, the country unsurprisingly became one of the top five most-represented countries. Knowledge- and travel-hungry people from other parts of Asia also crowded GreenTech’s show floor. The greenhouse tech event welcomed many German, British and Dutch visitors.
The busy aisles and full booths at this year’s event underline the increasing interest and investments in greenhouse technology. This year’s trade exhibition saw 17 incoming trade missions, many side events such as Meet the Xpert, Power Day, and the 100 GreenTech knowledge sessions featuring 220 speakers discussing the many aspects of greenhouse horticulture. Sustainability, climate change, energy efficiency, automation and robotics were hotly debated topics.
At GreenTech’s opening ceremony, Jaap Bond, chairman of the business platform Top Sector Horticulture and Starter Plants, showed himself very proud of horticulture at home and abroad.
He referenced the sector’s difficult balancing act between innovation, investment, crop yields and income. The solutions are there, while the challenges such as sustainability, water scarcity, and food security are well-known. In citing a recent economic study for horticulture, Bond compared the 2023 figures with those of four years ago. “The sector’s added value increased by eight per cent to 24 billion euros annually. This corresponds to a three per cent contribution to the Dutch economy.”
Private investment in research and development, Bond said, reached the astonishing sum of one billion euros per year, a growth of almost 20 per cent in four years. “The sector’s innovative capacity proves how hortipreneurs are investing massively in climate change and its e-manning challenges.”
Bond added, “These figures show the sector’s resilience in challenging times. They also show the sector’s innovative strength, which is needed to meet the challenges ahead.”
Adri Bom-Lemstra, chairwoman of the industry body for greenhouse horticulture Glastuinbouw Nederland, equally feels proud to represent a highly dynamic horticultural sector that benefits the Dutch economy and society. “We find solutions to mitigate climate change and manage water in smarter ways. Our entrepreneurs and growers produce healthy fruits and vegetables daily and provide a healthy and beautiful living environment. There are almost 250,000 jobs in this sector in the Netherlands, and fortunately, more and more young people realise that working in horticulture is important for society.”
However, Bom-Lemstra also mentioned that the sector has gone through a difficult period in the last two years with high energy prices and cost increases across the board. At the same time, the business environment is becoming more challenging. As such, she urged the Dutch government and the European Parliament “to ensure a good business climate so that our companies can stay in the Netherlands and are not forced to move abroad. In this way, the sector’s innovative capacity can contribute to a healthy, sustainable society for many years.”
There was an overall consensus among GreenTech exhibitors and visitors that last year marked a temporary pause in greenhouse construction activity due to the effects and uncertainties caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Because of skyrocketing energy prices, horticultural entrepreneurs thought twice before constructing a new greenhouse; almost no new greenhouse structures emerged, not even in the USA.
In the Netherlands, several greenhouses growers stopped altogether as they could no longer pay their energy bills. More generally, those who stopped did not demolish their greenhouses but sold them to neighbours or industry peers.
Today, the gas price is still high but finds itself in less rocky waters and therefore, the prospects for new greenhouse construction are developing more positively again.
A temporary pause in greenhouse construction did not mean that greenhouse companies could sit back and relax. Surging costs drove demand for greenhouse rooftop solar, adjustments in thermal screens and optimising heating installations.
Last year’s trend was also to save energy in greenhouse cultivation. Some tomato producers in the Netherlands dimmed their LEDs or switched them off temporarily.
The winner of GreenTech’s Robot Challenge is Corvus Drones (www.corvusdrones.com). The company launched its new E12 series microdrone as a “groundbreaking solution” for even better monitoring of food and ornamental crops. Thanks to the drone’s fast central processing unit (CPU), which can scan a wide area, the E12 series achieves a high scanning speed. No external memory is needed, and due to its small size, the drone generates less downwind. The E12s can be operated with different cameras. One is getting closer to the goal of being able to digitise every plant in every greenhouse, says the exhibitor. Corvus Dornes is a drone supplier that flies autonomously through the greenhouse and can collect data and photos on plant behaviour, diseases and pests, crop forecasting, germination, growth, yield, and deviations.
Considering the rising energy costs and the need for optimum growing conditions, flexible lighting is key, for example, regarding controlling or switching off certain groups of LEDs or certain LED colours.
Fulfilling these market demands was a large contingent of LED lighting suppliers at GreenTech, offering a range of solutions. Available on the market today are central drivers for LED lighting, where the connected lamps don t have their own individual driver and are getting multi-channel capability.
This technology allows the LEDs to be grouped and also individual LED colours with specific light qualities to be controlled individually or switched off. This makes it possible to select the right light for high-yielding harvest or strong growth and also to save energy. The lamps without their own drivers are also less expensive and do not heat up as much.
Central drivers were presented at GreenTech by Inventronics (www.inventronics-co.com), GSNL (www.gs-nl.com) and Advanced Energy/Artesyn Lightning (www.artesyn.com).
Signify (www.signify.com) signals the trend to link the usage of LED lighting to the current electricity price via climate software from Priva or Hoogendoorn, allowing growers to use less lighting when electricity prices are high. Depending on the application, the spectral range for red is also becoming more important. For example, Fluence Bioengineering (www.fluence.science) offers dual-channel colour far-red capability with the latest addition to its VYPR series for cultivation.
In the heating sector, electric water storage tanks caught the eye, for example, at Zantingh (www.zantingh.com), BKC/Groove (www.boetersbkc.nl) or in the range of products offered by Bosman van Zaal (www.bosmanvanzaal.de).
Using better fluctuating energy supplies such as solar cells or fluctuating electricity prices is the idea.
These tanks can store solar power in heat for several hours and release it later when needed. They also offer advantages if the calculated price in the electricity contract is updated according to the current price on the electricity market, for example, every hour or, as is also said to happen, even every five minutes. There is also a subsidy from the Dutch government for such electric water storage systems because this technology may relieve the electricity grids.
Several systems simultaneously heating, cooling, and enriching the greenhouse air with CO2 were displayed at the fair—for example, Biotherm’s PlantCentris system (www.biothermsolutions.com) and other suppliers.
On GreenTech Amsterdam’s opening, the 2023 GreenTech Awards winners were announced. Skytree won the Concept Award for product Model 5. And Biobest, in collaboration with PATS, scooped up the Innovation Award for the product Trap-Eye.
Skytree’s DDAC technology captures CO2 directly from the air and allows it to be commercially utilised or permanently stored. Skytree provides Decentralised Direct Air Capture (DDAC) units that offer a scalable alternative to the current fossil fuel-based CO2 supply chain. The DDAC units enable businesses to extract clean CO2 directly from ambient air on-site for direct usage or permanent storage. This approach satisfies the demand for CO2 while decreasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Biobest’s Trap-Eye unburdens growers from sticky trap scouting using wireless devices that identify and count insects to provide a complete population overview. Scouting is the first crucial step of a successful IPM. Trap-Eye™ fully automates sticky trap monitoring. It uses a dense network of scouting devices to take pictures of sticky traps, which our artificial neural network analysed to count pests and beneficial insects. This provides profitable, accurate, high-density scouting data for better IPM decisions anytime and anywhere.
This article first appeared in the July-August 2023 edition of FloraCulture International.