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Grow with Philips a horticulture’s plant specialist

Philips Horticulture’s plant specialists are excellent partners for any grower when it comes to using LED solutions in artificially lit cultivation. In every newsletter one of them talks about the developments and experiences in the field. This time it is Stefan van de Voort’s turn, and he tells us about the future of city farming in the Netherlands and the world.

“My love of plants began at an early age. As a child I spent a lot of time in the back garden growing my own plants. Then of course you get to an age at which it’s no longer so cool to do that, but by the end of secondary school I’d gone back to it. And that’s why biology struck me as a logical subject to study. The only problem was that I really enjoyed all the plant-related topics, but I was only mildly interested in the others. So I wasn’t really doing what I wanted to do and I decided to switch to the HAS University of Applied Sciences. The university’s practical approach suited me better than the theoretical approach used on the biology course and I was able to concentrate fully on growers’ practices.

“I found a vacancy at Philips while I was still studying. Not exactly the most obvious organization to choose, but it turned out to be a good move. Philips sees a future in local production and I was studying urban agriculture. Philips is convinced that new technologies offer solutions in this area. It is for instance already possible to grow vegetables and herbs in a closed room by means of LED lighting without using sunlight. This can be done nearby or in towns.

We will soon even have a first on the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. One floor of an existing office building is to be used for the first time for a city farm, where we will grow crops under controlled conditions and conduct cultivation studies. The fact that I’m able to work on this within a year of graduating is of course great. The nice thing about the team at Philips is that there’s a good mix of academic plant specialists and people with applied qualifications. This enables us to combine the highest level of knowledge with the understanding and sense of practical applicability that the grower provides. The search for the ultimate light recipe for a crop is a real adventure. Differences in the composition of the light will give different results. I find it really great to crystallize out what exactly happens with a plant. For a plant-lover this work is infinitely fascinating.”

“What is also a fascinating dimension to our work is that we’re not only doing pioneering work in the field of light and cultivation, but also regarding acceptance of new growing techniques by the consumer. We see major differences worldwide. In Japan, for instance, there is a completely different response to ecological vegetables grown under sterile conditions than in other cultures. On the other hand there is a preference for traditional ecological cultivation, for example. This is dominated by the image of open-air cultivation and above all plenty of natural sunlight.

Our setup on the campus can contribute to and change many attitudes. The crops we’re growing are used in the restaurants where all employees on the High Tech Campus have their lunch every day. This means that we’re really at the hub of the changing society and it keeps my work exciting all the time.”

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