It’s all down to the GroSens that I can adapt irrigation start and stop times more accurately to suit the needs of the crops

Antoni de Bruin

GroSens and e-Gro support sweet pepper grower in a dual role

Antoni de Bruin from Klazienaveen has made an unusual choice by combining growing green sweet peppers on six hectares spread over two sites – part of which has grow lighting – and his role as a consultant. Another striking choice is his preference for Grodan GT Master substrate slabs. Thanks to the GroSens Multisensor system and the handy e-Gro app he can follow progress from anywhere and at any time and intervene if necessary.

As an unconventional businessman, Antoni de Bruin is not afraid to take the road less travelled. His approach has brought him a lot of insight and experience, which fellow growers can benefit from. He acts as a part time consultant for a number of other fruiting vegetable growers in the border region, focussing his advice on irrigation and fertilising.“I enjoy the combination of growing and advising, it keeps me on my toes”, he explains. “And ever-advancing technology and the internet mean that I’m not physically tied to my greenhouses if I want to check how the crops are coming along. Today all you have to do is login to the computer, check the status and change any setpoints if and when needed.”

Grow lights

Last year, he doubled his growing area of green sweet peppers to six hectares by taking on the neighbouring former rose nursery. His growing system there is arranged to suit the greenhouse’s former use: eight gutters (4x2) per 8 m of roof section width compared with six gutters (V-system) per 8 m of roof section width at his original site. The existing, and almost written off, lighting installation at the second site allow him to increase and bring forward production for limited extra costs. “I start the crops under lights a little earlier than the naturally lit crops but use smaller plants. The grow light encourages the plants to root in faster and when they have almost reached the fruit set stage the root zone in the slab is bigger. The plants are just that bit more robust. The first two fruit sets produce four kg more per square metre, so I can market the peppers sooner than most other growers.”

Three years’ experience with GroSens

De Bruin has been using the GroSens Multisensor system for three years and his experiences are positive. “I have three sections with different plant data and I use three sensors in each section. I also use a GroSens HandHeld meter, which I chiefly use to check at random spots where the substrate can sometimes be a little drier or wetter than average. Combined with the drain measurement I can track the WC and EC levels in the slab highly accurately. You have to be proactive with your crop management strategy to keep sweet peppers in balance and get the best performance. It’s far easier to achieve that than before. And the e-Gro app has made that process even simpler. As long as you have internet acces, you can follow everything perfectly.”

Higher slab easier to steer

Last year, he doubled his growing area of green sweet peppers to six hectares by taking on the neighbouring former rose nursery. His growing system there is arranged to suit the greenhouse’s former use: eight gutters (4x2) per 8 m of roof section width compared with six gutters (V-system) per 8 m of roof section width at his original site. The existing, and almost written off, lighting installation at the second site allow him to increase and bring forward production for limited extra costs. “I start the crops under lights a little earlier than the naturally lit crops but use smaller plants. The grow light encourages the plants to root in faster and when they have almost reached the fruit set stage the root zone in the slab is bigger. The plants are just that bit more robust. The first two fruit sets produce four kg more per square metre, so I can market the peppers sooner than most other growers.”

Irrigation strategy

The grower from Klazienaveen keeps to a tight irrigation strategy. After a 9-11% drain during the evening and night hours, he replenishes the WC in increments of 4% in three large irrigation sessions before draining the slabs at midday. “Additional to the three standard sessions, I irrigate based on WC and light intensity”, he continues. “The stop time is between half past two and half past five. It all depends on how long I expect it will take to drain the slab by 9 to 11% again until ten the next morning. It’s all down to the GroSens that I can adapt irrigation start and stop times more accurately to suit the needs of the crops. In the long term, it keeps the plants more vital, better balanced and therefore more productive. ”Thanks to the GroSens and e-Gro, de Bruin always knows precisely what is happening at root level and can combine his dual roles of growing sweet peppers and advising other growers. 

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