“We want to show innovations in intensive horticulture and demonstrate how they can be applied in practice. This is the main goal of the Innovation and Demonstration Centres (IDCs) in the Netherlands,” says Sjaak Bakker of Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture. There are currently seven operational IDCs, namely in the field of water , flavour, energy, LED lighting, bulbs and plants, digital cultivation, and mechanisation. Another IDC in the field of logistics is currently in preparation.
First IDC set the trend
“The first IDC was part of the ‘Greenhouse as Energy Source’ programme, which ran in Bleiswijk from 2007 to 2013. It started with the demonstration of prototypes for three energy-saving greenhouses, which were the result of a design competition. The successful demonstration project attracted over 2,000 visitors a year, many from outside of the Netherlands. It contributed to a follow-up project which demonstrated an electricity generating greenhouse. In addition to suppliers (having their equipment or systems tested) and greenhouse horticulturalists, the IDCs involve district water boards and regional governments as financers. We also want to have school and university students participate in the projects.”
Variety in research and innovations
Every IDC involves multiple projects. “All projects are on the frontline of innovations in horticulture, and focused on sustainability, product innovation and greater efficiency,” Sjaak continues. “Good communication with businesses is an essential part of the concept. Where are the opportunities for horticulture professionals and which challenges do they face? We support them in developing these opportunities, and try to solve any problems together in a step-by-step process. The constant interaction between the expertise of the scientists and the horticulture sector leads to progress, and will eventually help us realise implementation in practice.”
Philips studies LEDs in IDC
One of the successful IDCs, in partnership with Philips, is involved in LED lighting. “We are happy with this facility and the input of Wageningen’s expertise so we can study practical issues related to LEDs,” says Esther de Beer of Philips Horticulture LED Solutions. “Philips and Wageningen UR made joint investments in the facility. With the IDC LED we have a greenhouse in which we can test everything. Once you have an idea for a new type of research, you can immediately set to work as the facility is already there. Using the computer we can create any light setting and test the effects on any potential crop.”
Since its start in May 2013 there have already been concrete results. Using smart LEDs reduces the energy consumption of lighting by one third. It was also shown that red light from red LEDs stimulates the resistance of plants to fungi and supports higher photosynthesis efficiency.
Interest from China and the Middle East
The interest from abroad for Dutch horticultural innovations (shown and studied in IDCs) is considerable, especially for issues related to water and energy, Sjaak concludes. “For example, there is lots of interest from China in improving its own food production and consuming less energy. In the Middle East a major issue is water shortages, which means they are mainly interested in water-saving measures in cultivation systems. This interest helps the Dutch suppliers forward. There are constantly new partners joining the IDCs, whom we welcome with open arms. After all, it is horticulture that ultimately benefits.”