Saturn Bioponics at Valefresco

UK: Commercial pak soi grower increases yield with tower system

Leafy produce and soft fruit growers can increase yields by three to four times with the aid of a new hydroponic growing system which utilises three dimensional space inside a glasshouse or polytunnel, according to Alex Fisher, founder and CEO of Saturn Bioponics.

Mr Fisher said: “Our customers have delivered yields of about four times what they were getting previously and have significantly sped up the growth cycle.

“For example, our pak choi customer is now getting an additional two-and-a-half crop cycles in the year.”

The company is focused on compact greenhouse crops, such as leafy salads and vegetables, herbs and strawberries, and is also trialling dwarf peppers and chillies, edible and cut flowers.

“Hydroponic systems have been around for many years, and have been very successful in the tomato, pepper and chilli sectors but have not really succeeded with more compact crops.

“However, with the savings in labour and resource use, alongside the huge yield increase, our modular system improves profitability to such an extent that a grower can expect a payback of between 1 and 3 years.”

Valefresco, one of the UK’s leading salad growers, installed a system for pak choi production and has increased yields from 3kg per square metre to 11.5kg per square metre per crop cycle.

Nick Mauro, director of Valefresco, said: “We are producing nearly 100 per cent clean, saleable crop year round and doing our best to keep it completely chemical free.

“We sell to some of the UK’s biggest processors and retailers and they absolutely love it – in fact we’re negotiating a new contract off the back of it.

“We are looking at rolling it out for all our pak choi production and are trialling it for our premium lettuce too.

“We are really happy with the payback figures; it makes the investment much more attractive.”

R&D lead Arnoud Witteveen, who studied at Wageningen University, was keen to point out the relationships Saturn Bioponics develop with their customers have been key to success.

“We provide know-how support and have dedicated research going on continuously to improve nutrient feeds and optimise specific crop features to suit our customers’ needs. This has enabled them to be successful with the system from day one.”

Manor Farm Fruits, who installed a system for their strawberry plants earlier this year, were happy to share their yield data from the Elsanta Light Weighting Bed plants they grew as June bearers, which showed an increase of nearly four-and-a-half times, equivalent to 5kg more fruit per square metre.

Mr Fisher says: “We have effectively eliminated root zone fungal disease from the system, meaning that Phytophthora is not a problem. Strawberries are a wonderful plant to grow in the system and we are receiving enormous interest from all over the world for them.”

For more information:
Saturn Bioponics
+44(0)121 286 2280

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