Water Management

Make better use of your water!

Stefanie Wienhoven
Stefanie Wienhoven
22 March 2019

22 March is always World Water Day, a day for increasing awareness of the value of water. In the Netherlands too, the consequences of the extremely dry summer of 2018 are still being felt. As of March 2019, our water supply is still not up to its normal level. The University of Twente recently published an article in Nieuwe Oogst (“New Harvest”, an agricultural news forum) entitled ‘Water here as scarce as in Saudi Arabia’.

Grodan is aware of this and is dedicated to water management since its establishment in 1969 – 50 years ago. It has also committed itself to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, one of which is water management.

Via innovation and information Grodan contributes to efficient greenhouse water usage. Now, at the beginning of 2019, it’s time to take stock. We spoke via Skype with the man in Grodan who deals with water, Technical Services Manager Andrew Lee. “We begin by advising growers how to cultivate in hydroponic systems—basically growing plants in a substrate to which we apply precise volumes of water and fertilser. This method of cultivation consumes significantly less water than open field soil grown crops  and any water that drains from the system can be collected and recycled. The difference in water use is significant. Growing one kilo of tomatoes in an open field uses 60 litres of water, whereas a hydroponic system consumes only 15 litres.”

open field
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Litres of water needed when growing one kilo of tomatoes in an open field

Hydroponic system
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litres of water needed when growing one kilo of tomatoes in a hydroponic system

What other water expertise does Grodan develop?

Andrew continues: “Managing water consumption isn’t always the first thing growers take into consideration. Water is relatively cheap, especially compared to energy.. Still, even more can be saved but it requires more knowledge generation and knowledge transfer. This is what we are working on, together with scientists. Wageningen University has set up the greenhouse of the future in Bleiswijk . This greenhouse complex consists of 7500 square metres of glass covering ninety departments and can be used for research purposes. Together with Wageningen University we have been working on an emission-free greenhouse. We use what we learn there to advise the growers.”

What is an example of such a tool?

“The calculation tool! Together with WUR we've developed a calculation tool, allowing us to see the water savings achievable by growing on stone wool, and taking into account conditions in a variety of climate zones. Our goal is to demonstrate the positive impact our method of cultivation has on worldwide water, fertiliser and land consumption.”

And what more can be done?

Regulations related to water usage for growers are becoming stricter. We are developing smart software for our root zone sensors which will help growers further optimise water and fertiliser application to crops. . “We advise growers to collect all drainage water and purify it before re-use., Our research at Wageningen University shows that this is possible and we are helping transfer this knowledge to growers world wide”.

Back to 22 March. World Water Day. At Grodan we fully support this day. Knowledge on smart water management is growing. Our own knowledge, but also others’. We encourage sharing hopeful initiatives in this field, thereby contributing to World Water Day’s broader mission.

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