Society has become more critical of the greenhouse horticulture, arable farming and dairy industries and demands change, but the current farming systems can only meet this demand to a limited extent. The way forward will involve a transition to a healthier and more resilient agricultural and horticultural system. In the new AGROS programme, we are investigating how technology can help with this transition.
This month, the AGROS programme was launched with a digital kick-off during which the plans for the coming four years were explained. The programme is developing agrotechnologies to support ecological and biological processes in the greenhouse horticulture, arable farming and dairy industries. The AGROS programme is a collaboration between Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and 26 private partners, with funding provided by two of the government’s ‘Top Sectors’ programmes: Agri & Food and Horticulture & Raw Materials.
‘AGROS’ stands for ‘Evolution to sustainable AGRicultural Operation Systems’. The main goal is to develop tools that can steer production towards more efficiency in the deployment of energy, water, plant protection products and labour. The knowledge learned from the research and experiments and the professional guidance provided will benefit the participating arable and dairy farmers, horticulturalists and technology companies.
Today, there is a continuous demand for fresh and healthy products of constant high quality, regardless of the season. “The greenhouse horticulture industry can deliver this, but we are limited by the availability of sufficiently qualified personnel who have knowledge of all aspects of efficient cultivation. That is why we need to continue the development of automated cultivation systems,” says Anja Dieleman, project leader and researcher at WUR Greenhouse Horticulture.
Their vision of the future is an autonomous greenhouse in which the knowledge a grower currently carries around in their head is replaced by artificial intelligence. With new model-based control algorithms, the conditions in the greenhouse can be autonomously adjusted to achieve the cultivation goals. Intelligent sensors closely monitor the processes in the plants, and the control algorithms can be adjusted based on this information.
This makes it possible to adjust the greenhouse for higher temperatures or less light, or to grow more cucumbers per plant, for example. This development towards autonomous greenhouse cultivation is being carried out with the support of the organisations IMEC/One Planet, Gennovation, Nunhems, Delphy, Saint Gobain/ Cultilene, ENGIE, Greenport West Holland, Roullier, Mechatronix, Stichting Kennis in je Kas, Signify, Philips, RidderHortivation and TNO.
Source: Wageningen University & Research.