With the rise of new technology in cultivation, growers are being offered all kinds of new control options, for example, new, innovative fittings for lighting. It helps growers to see, preferably in real-time, what all these new techniques are doing to their crops and particularly how the crop responds to them. In this way, they can quickly intervene where necessary. Sensor producer 2Grow has recently noticed that more and more technology companies are discovering the added value of sensors for this reason.
Olivier Begerem and Maxim Dedecker at GreenTech 2019. All team members of 2Grow can be seen here.
Olivier Begerem, manager at the Belgian sensor manufacturer: "We started in the academic world, then also started supplying growers, and now we see that more and more technology companies are also becoming interested in sensors. We are already working together with, among others, producers of substrate products, fog and water systems, and also lighting producers. Everything that affects a plant, we can make clear with our sensors, including sap flow sensors that measure the sap flow, but also stem diameter sensors. It is precisely the combination of measurements that makes a lot clear."
Targeted steering, targeted measuring
Often, the use of a sensor starts with one sensor 'to see what's possible', Olivier notes. "That way, people gain experience with our possibilities. Then you see that, because growers can already control their watering per crane section for example, they also want to place a sensor per crane section. That is also our advice: the grower places the sap flow sensor at the base of the plant, and what we measure there, including fluctuations in stem thickness, we can also translate to what is happening at the top of the plant."
The latter is what Laura Frijters, service manager, does for and together with users. For example, in a recently discussed example of a sap flow sensor in an exposure trial, she was in close contact with grower Ary de Jong of HortiTech. Laura: "He needed to see what his growing choices were doing to the crop because of the LED fixtures he was testing. We can provide real-time insight into this with our sensors."
The sensors from 2Grow will be sold in the package with the Climalux fixtures, along with also guidance from HortiTech, which is currently doing the tests with the fixtures. In the photo: Ary de Jong (HortiTech) and Laura Frijters (2Grow) in this summer's cucumber trial with the Climalux fixtures
The growers themselves can follow the figures and Laura can also watch from a distance if she wishes. "Together, Ary and I discovered, for example, in a winter cucumber crop, that there was a completely different water demand under the lights. This is because, when using LED lights, there is generally less heat at the head, which means that the plant becomes less active and therefore evaporates less. If the grower, in that case, were to give the usual watering, you would, as it were, blow up the plant. You can find that out with our stem diameter sensor. Ary has now learned to grow differently using the data from our sensors."
It is not only growers with lighting who can benefit from sensors. Growers without lighting and even growers with outdoor crops can use the sensors. However, Olivier believes that the more buttons growers have to turn and control, the greater the added value of sensors. "That is why vertical farming is the holy grail for us. As a grower, you can actually switch off all external factors and control everything yourself. That's when sensors come in very handy."