Groundbreaking technology and robots for floricultural breeding, that was the essence of the recent Breeders & Young Plant Producers conference that took place on 4-5 December in Wageningen. About 80 breeders, young plant producers and traders participated in this fascinating two-day event, organized by Fleuroselect, with ‘science in floriculture’ as the central theme. "In addition to participants from the Netherlands, also quite a number of industry members from Germany, Italy, Denmark, Spain, Poland and the United Kingdom had come to Wageningen for this congress," according to Sally van der Horst, Secretary General of Fleuroselect.
State-of-the-art technology for crop innovation
The cornerstone of the program was a visit to KeyGene, specialist in crop innovations. By means of molecular breeding this company improves the quality and harvest of certain crops. This approach is not based on genetic manipulation and is the quickest and most budget-friendly way to help breeders in floriculture to introduce better crops. Anker Sørensen, Vice-President New Business Development KeyGene: "With the help of CRISPR-Cas technology we characterize the gene in question with which we want to start working. We then use traditional molecular breeding techniques to achieve the desired genetic improvements for the development of new species and varieties."
Robots in the greenhouse
Another part of the program was realized in cooperation with the Agro-Food Robotics department of WUR. Erik Pekkeriet, Senior Manager Business Development, informed the participants about the latest developments in the area of robotics for crop cultivation. The SWEEPER, a fully automated system for harvesting peppers, caught the attention in particular.
Anja Dieleman, senior scientist in plant physiology, gave a fascinating lecture on the influence of LED light on ornamental plant production and explained some recent research results with so-called 'far red' light.
Innovations in breeding and propagation
The central theme of 'science in floriculture' was amply filled. Here Bock Bio Science, a German propagator of phalaenopsis and helleborus, introduced the self-developed automation system for propagation 'RoboCut' and Ruud Brinkkemper, General Manager of PanAmerican Seed, explained how his breeding team succeeded in integrating resistance to downy mildew in the new impatiens. walleriana 'Beacon'. The icing on the cake was the presentation by Deborah Nas, professor of Strategic Design for Technology-based Innovation at TU Delft. Using striking examples from history she sketched the ambiguous love-hate relationship between humans and technological innovations and explained a number of upcoming trends in floriculture.
Interesting visits, inspiring speakers and all that against a background of relaxed networking: the success formula for a more than successful conference.
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