On the 20th of October 2022, a consortium of partners in the horticultural sector, including local and Dutch companies, in partnership with Stellenbosch University, officially opened the brand new HortiDemoCentre.
With the support of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) and all consortium partners, enough financial means were collected to realize the HortiDemoCentre at Stellenbosch. The HortiDemoCentre will specialize in protected horticulture and will showcase Dutch horticultural technology.
Helene Rekker, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with Prof Wim de Villiers, rector of the University of Stellenbosch
The facility showcases various innovative technologies. Drain water, for instance, is being recycled after it has been disinfected by UVC radiation using a Ridder Vitalite system. Rainwater is harvested and stored in a 500 000 liter storage facility.
Ridder also provided the FertiMix unit, which manages fertigation. Four fertilizer dosing channels provide various recipe options. The greenhouse has a motorized shading system to protect crops against excess light levels.
- The pump room is part of the greenhouse and covered in double-walled polycarbonate instead of greenhouse film.
- A center pathway of concrete provides easy access for crop cultivation and harvesting activities.
- A bio-security entrance room helps maintain hygiene.
- A safety rail on the two side gutters, 5m above ground, prevents falling during maintenance activities on the greenhouse.
- IP net in the roof vents protects the crops against insect damage.
The partner members, including Delphy BV, Stellenbosch University, Greener Solutions (a South African company), Ludvig Svensson, Ridder Group, Rijk Zwaan, Koppert South Africa, and Control Union, all contribute a broad spectrum of knowledge and technology throughout the horticultural value chain: from seed to market, to aim to develop, together with South African farmers, a business case for production for markets in South Africa.
Target groups of the center include commercial and emerging farmers, students, agronomists, researchers, local government and extension services, and value chain actors such as buyers and retailers.
The HortiDemoCentre will also offer a potential site for independent trials for the commercial vegetable sector. It will be able to generate local and nonpartisan data on vegetable varieties on behalf of commercial seed companies through being administered by Stellenbosch University.
The HortiDemoCentre will not only focus on the improvement of farming methods, but by focusing on the entire value chain, markets for the products will be improved, and ultimately jobs will be created with climate-smart horticulture. The HortiDemoCentre aims to provide training, skills, and knowledge exchange on good farming practices and entrepreneurship for new and existing growers (students) and (emerging) commercial farmers.
It also encourages stakeholders and value chain partners to develop a new market for sustainable agriculture and technologies such as on water efficiency, climate-resistant inputs, biological pest management, post-harvest inspection, and certification. Besides, the project will contribute to food security by increasing the local production and availability of quality food products that are nutritious and safe and allow access to premium markets.