Precision horticulture

Dutch growers lead the world in using hydroponics to cut water use.

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Horticulture as the answer to water scarcity

When water scarcity is a growing problem, horticulture may have the answer. By using stone wool growing media together with advanced irrigation technology, growers in the Netherlands are halving the volume of water they need in vegetable cultivation.

By 2050 the world’s population will need twice as much food as it does today. But our resources, especially water, will be increasingly constrained. According to a 2016 study1, the use of stone wool precision growing media in a greenhouse rather than soil to grow vegetables can produce higher yields with significantly less water. The key is precision. In soil, not all the water reaches the root zone where it’s needed and this can quickly lead to excessive irrigation.

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Source: Grodan. The plant grown on stone wool (right) needs less water and produces more fruit compared to the plants grown in soil (left).

Recirculate excess wate with our presions growing

With hydroponic techniques that use precision stone wool growing media, however, it’s possible to recirculate excess water, meaning at least 50 percent less irrigation is required. In addition, innovative technologies allow for much greater precision, making it possible for growers to measure and regulate the water as well as fertiliser use. 

Growers in the Netherlands are leaders in the use of this technology. The Wageningen University study shows that by using hydroponic techniques on stone wool substrates, they have achieved higher yields of tomatoes with less than half the water needed in soil-based growing.

If adopted worldwide, this high-tech greenhouse cultivation system used broadly in the Netherlands could play a major role in meeting the demand for producing more food from fewer resources.

1: E. Heuvelink and L.F.M. Marcelis (Wageningen University), Global challenge area: water scarcity (2016)

Irrigation savings
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less irrigation needed in stone wool compared to soil cultivation higher yields from less than half the water

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