New open field gutter system halves footprint of strawberry

This month a group of large players in the strawberry industry gathered at Dutch propagator Van Alphen Aardbeienplanten, curious about their new propagation system for open field strawberry tray plants. In this new system, the plants are suspended about 50 cm above the ground. All processes are executed from a platform above the plants, doubling the number of plants per hectare. Grower Frank van Alphen is one of the first in the Netherlands to use this system to propagate strawberry plants.

Conventional tray field Tray field in the new, elevated propagation system 

Van Alphen uses the system in a field setup complete with drainage, steel gutters and anti root fabric. There is a special installation to place the gutters and trays on and special tracks allow a platform to conduct crop work or harvest from above. Irrigation is automated, plus special side ventilation is installed to keep the heat under the system in cold weather.

Platform from which several process components are executed

The drainage water from the tray field is collected with 0% discharge to the environment.

Gutters, rails and trays for the strawberry plants. The system has been manufactured by Meteor Systems. 

Economic benefits

Van Alphen has installed 133 km of gutter topped with 132,000 tray plates. Per hectare this allows for the propagation of 700,000 plants instead of 400,000. It also results in considerable savings on plant protection products and fertilizers used per plant.

With the plants higher above the ground, there is no risk of splashing surface water against the fruits and a reduced risk of infections. There is also increased air circulation under the plants, so they dry quicker and root development is not inhibited.

A total of 30,000 tray pots can be filled instead of 14,000 per worker per day. The sticking of cuttings and clipping of tendrils is also accelerated (respectively from 1000 to 1250 per hour per worker and from 200,000 plants with 10 men to 300,000 plants with 1 worker per day).

Advantages for man, nature, environment
42.8% less water, nutrition and plant protection product is required per plant.
Cultivation also no longer depends on the groundwater level. And the system is also an improvement for the employees. According to Hans van Asseldonk of manufacturer GEGE Machinebouw employees can now comfortably do their work from the platform. Creeping through fields on their knees wearing rain suits is a thing of the past.

This new Demtec tray filler has a capacity of about 250,000 tray pots a day. Van Alphen has filled and planted 2,1 million tray pots in total so far.

View from the platform

Back of the platform

The first plants from the new propagation system will be packed and stored in cold storage at -1,5ºC in late November.

Some Van Alphen employees

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