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Developing hydroponic systems for vegetables sown at high density

Hydroponic cultivation systems offer great potential to produce high-quality crops with reduced environmental impact. Hydroponics benefits growers by increased productivity, by improved efficient management of crop cultivation while controlling diseases that influence yield and revenue. More than 90% of greenhouse cultivation of fruit vegetables has shifted to hydroponics; leafy vegetables grown at low plant density (e.g. lettuce) are starting to implement systems. However, no straightforward solutions are available for vegetable crops traditionally densely sown in rows in the field, such as corn salad, spinach or rocket salad.

Densely sown crops are important for the local economy and increasing demand steers production. Development of a novel hydroponic system for densely sown crops in greenhouses, will enable producers to address the challenges they currently face regarding efficient management of crop cultivation and capacity to deal with diseases that reduce yield/quality and revenue. The system will provide for an environmentally and economically viable cultivation, sustainable for producers and more aesthetically and hygienically acceptable to consumers.

Within this project, Howest IDC plays an important role throughout the design process: from the fuzzy front-end to setting up a pilot. Starting with setting up creativity sessions between the stakeholders. Followed with series of prototyping and testing. Finishing with the design of a base infrastructure for further development.

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