“With the new agriculture, gardening is moving from green fingers to science.”

“With the new agriculture, gardening is moving from green fingers to science.”

More efficient and profitable farming by making use of the laws of plant physiology and physics. In short, this is the goal within the growing next generation. “In traditional farming, decisions are mainly made on the basis of feeling and practical experience,” says intern Bart van Duijn from Greenhouse Horticulture Netherlands. “With Het Nieuwe Telen, gardening moves from green fingers to science.”

During a digitization event in Bleiswijk in the south of the Netherlands, Van Duijn explains that farmers working under Het Nieuwe Telen focus on monitoring factory and cash balances. But there is no standard protocol for using sensors. To illustrate: one grower uses a PAR sensor in the greenhouse to take measurements and the other measures the radiation outside the greenhouse. These are different values, so results cannot be compared. With a standardized measurement protocol, we always talk about the same values.

Although Plant Empowerment took the first step in this direction, according to Van Duygen, no steps towards practice were taken. This is the task of the intern at Glastuinbouw Nederland: How can all greenhouse scales and plants be objectively and reliably visualized in practice? “If this works, farmers and researchers can make the right decisions, crop yields will increase and farmers can reduce their environmental footprint and increase their resilience,” says Van Duijn.

During the digitization event, Van Duijn presented the first version of a list of sensors that the trade association says are necessary to comply with the basic principles of Het Nieuwe Telen. It relates to net radiation meter, plant temperature meter, root temperature meter, PAR sensor, climate box, CO2 meter and albergo radiometer.

This list of sensors has now also been implemented in a test project at Vereijken on Beek en Donk in North Brabant. “Before the measurement protocol is finalized, feedback from the sector is needed,” van Duijn says. “Is there anything we miss?” Comments suggest that the addition of plant sap, a strain meter, and an evapotranspiration measurement device could be valuable.

Criticism point

One of the points criticized by the public is whether there will be a general rule for the number of sensors per hectare or square metre. If a farmer has one measuring box per 2,000 square metres, and another per 5,000 square metres, is that comparable? Not all farmers can provide all of their departments with this entire list. In my case, that would mean buying hundreds of extra gauge boxes. This is not financially feasible,” says the present businessman.

Van Duygen understands the criticism. He replies: “We will not impose any regulations.” Measurement protocol is a manual, basic package. The ultimate goal of the protocol is purely the approximation of technology and practice.

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