The upcoming weekend in the Netherlands is forecasted to bring substantial rainfall, raising the likelihood that numerous cultivators have already received notifications on their mobile devices. These alerts ask them to create space within their basins as part of the Rainlevelr project. In this collaborative initiative, Dutch growers are partnering with water boards and municipalities to mitigate the risk of flooding. Presently, the project boasts over 70 participating growers, with ongoing efforts aimed at expansion and enhancement.
From pilot to reality
Originating as a pilot in 2017, the project initially engaged growers in the Delfland region of the Netherlands, seeking their involvement in water management solutions. Fast forward six years, and Rainlevelr has evolved into a significant endeavor. Over 365 hectares of greenhouse facilities are now seamlessly integrated into the Rainlevelr water network. This achievement is the result of a partnership between the Delfland Water Board, the Westland municipality, LTO Noord Glaskracht, and, of course, the dedicated growers.
Engaging participants, Delfland provides timely precipitation forecasts and sends out SMS notifications when additional basin space is required. Growers respond by freeing up capacity within their rainwater basins or silos using a specially designed pipeline, allowing them to accommodate heavy rainfall effectively.
The growers' participation is voluntary, and Delfland compensates them for the supplemental infrastructure. "Rainlevelr – together with other measures against flooding – contributes to absorbing heavier showers in the future. Shortage of irrigation water during drought and flooding are two sides of the same coin", the team with Rainlevelr explains.
The growth of Rainlevelr has been continuous, facilitated by ongoing upgrades. While initially limited to new or renovated water storage basins, last year marked the expansion of the program to include existing basins and silos. Overcoming technical challenges, such as integrating growers' basins with app-controlled valves and connecting to existing overflow structures, demonstrates the project's commitment to innovation.
Photo from earlier this year, when growers were asked to empty their basins when 30-40 mm rain was expected. Photo via Hoogheemraadschap van Delfland.
Looking ahead, plans are in place to automate the control valve's operation, catering to participants' preferences. Several participants have expressed this wish: "If we have confidence in the system, we don't want to have to worry about it," they say.
"The automation of the control valve is performed according to the role and responsibilities within Rainlevelr. This means that Delfland, as water manager, indicates what the desired collection capacity is at any given time and any need for additional collection capacity. This functional requirement is offered digitally in such a way that all parties within the greenhouse horticulture sector can gain access to it", the team with Rainlevelr explains. "On the side of the greenhouse horticulture company, the management is designed in such a way that we take into account individual wishes and preconditions. After all, participation is voluntary."
Beyond easing participants' responsibilities, automation and improved control mechanisms optimize basin utilization in flood prevention. The initiative is set to continue throughout 2023 and 2024, with the Technolution team collaborating with LetsGrow.com to conduct pilots at various companies.
Gai Vegter and Saskia Jouwersma at HortiContact 2022
Since January 2023, Rainlevelr has welcomed eight new participants, including Bestplant, Batist Gerbera, Plantenkwekerij P. Mostert, Luiten Kwekerij, a second location of KP Holland, Mts. De Jong-Franke, Koppert Cress, and Ammerlaan Growers. This development, amounting to nearly 10% of the glass-covered area within Delfland, is a point of pride for Gai Vegter, Rainlevelr's account manager. The achievement underscores the project's substantial impact in safeguarding the region against flooding, with potential storage capacity for substantial rainfall.
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