It is a product that, with a little imagination, is reminiscent of the old- fashioned kitchen sponge, but then in a high-tech and fully biodegradable jacket. The Growfoam plugs from Foamplant are made with fully biodegradable foam. "The foam has all the good properties of organic substrate, but the composition can be controlled and varied much better," according to Martin Tietema, CEO of Foamplant.
The Dutch company introduces Growfoam at GreenTech and has been nominated for a GreenTech Innovation Award in the Sustainability category. "Growers now can control their cultivation in great detail on many fronts, but finding a constant, homogeneous substrate is difficult." By working with foam made from biopolymers, you can tailor-make a substrate, according to Martin. "Form-retaining substrate with an open structure for root growth, where growers can, among other things, control the water absorption capacity by choosing a specific composition."
Control foam as well as cultivation
This controllability is one of the advantages. For example for growers of young plants that grow several crops at the same time. "They can now choose a foam that has a high water capacity in the summer to prevent dehydration, while in winter the crop requires a substrate with a lower water capacity to prevent mold formation when the water evaporates less quickly."
Constant and clean
After years of R&D, the company has mastered the making of foam. “We can guarantee consistent quality, both through the materials we use and through a constant, clean and sterile production process. Each batch has exactly the same composition and the final product can be fully traced back to the basics.” That's an advantage, for example for countries that have strict export requirements for the import of organic material. "In addition, the substrate is pathogen-free, which reduces the risk of fungi and diseases compared to organic material."
Larger objects from own production
At GreenTech, Foamplant, which has now also applied for a patent, will have samples with plug material and also some test plants to show how a crop develops in the plugs. “At the moment we are also focusing on plugs for a gradual introduction to the market. We currently can produce a few hundred million a year."
However, tests are already being carried out with larger units, blocks and mats. “We expect that from the end of 2019 we will also be able to introduce these objects from our own production. We can then make good use of the experiences from this first market introduction."