“Given the local climate conditions in the Gulf region, local and safe food production is not an easy task”
It is a prime example of the horticultural technology that has adorned the Expo 2020 in Dubai since the beginning of last month: a meter-high conical biotope houses 10,000 edible plants in the middle of the Dutch pavilion. With this unusual creation, various horticultural suppliers are demonstrating how they can help the region to make its food supply more sustainable.
Sharing horticultural knowledge
Growing in extreme outdoor temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius; to many people, it sounds like a fairy tale, but thanks to horticultural technology, this has been possible for years. However, this story is still quite unknown. By participating in the Expo 2020 in Dubai, Bom Group, Hoogendoorn Growth Management, and MJ-Tech, among others, are showing that it can be done. Many people will think that it is much too hot to grow vegetables in the desert, or that there is hardly any water available. Actually, that is very true, but with the right horticultural techniques it is possible, says Jurnjan van den Bremer of MJ-Tech. The company produces high-pressure fogging systems that lower the temperature in greenhouses and optimize the growing climate. “Especially in these types of climates, you want to make the best use of the available water to grow food,” he says.
Safely grown food
“Because of all the recent developments in the world, people here also realize that sufficient food, but especially safely grown food is very important,” adds Rob de Wit of Bom Group. “Given the local climate conditions in the Gulf region, this is certainly not an easy task.” He knows what he is talking about: Bom Group knows its way around the Middle East. For example, they realized the Pure Harvest Smart Farms project, a turnkey lettuce and tomato greenhouse of over 40,000 m2, and are now working on the second phase. For the research facility ‘The Water Saving Greenhouse’ in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, they equipped several research departments with their semi-closed Air in Control climate system.
“In this region, achieving the most efficient and sustainable production is essential,” confirms Angela Barendregt of Hoogendoorn. The horticultural automation company is a market leader in the Middle East and sees opportunities to further increase the sustainability of the food supply in the region with their IIVO process computer. “Plants are very good at indicating which resources they need at any given time. If you include that feedback, you can use resources very efficiently and thus make your cultivation more sustainable.”
Many techniques used to make cultivation in the region more sustainable
In the impressive Cone, all of these come to the fore. Oyster mushrooms grow on the inside of the cone-shaped cultivation installation and various edible plants grow on the Cone itself. This is possible thanks to the sophisticated irrigation system of the Cone, sponsored, supplied, and assembled by Bom Group. “The irrigation is fully automatic and controlled 24 hours a day so that it gives exactly the desired amount at the exact desired time,” Rob demonstrates. And that’s necessary because, with temperatures rising considerably, water and nutrients are vital to the plants. An additional advantage is that the irrigation system also makes the climate in the Dutch pavilion a lot more pleasant, he says. The misting system from MJ-Tech also contributes to this. By dispersing fine mist in and around the cone, the temperature drops, and a growth-friendly climate is created that keeps the plants fresh. “That’s exactly how we can also control and optimize the climate and cultivation in greenhouses,” says Jurnjan.
Moreover, the plants can be monitored worldwide 24/7. With the Hoogendoorn IIVO process automation, sensors, and smart cameras, they demonstrate in real life how they use the feedback from plants to optimize cultivation. “This allows us to monitor and analyze the situation in and on the Cone in real-time,” says Angela. “We see the thousands of edible plants and continuously record the climate conditions both inside and outside the Dutch pavilion. We collect all that data in the IIVO process computer, and with that we help control the cultivation again.”
Realizing the Cone was an amazing project. Photos are provided by Bom Group, who installed the complete drip irrigation, hooks and plant pots before the plants arrived.
National Flag Day
The Expo 2020 Dubai will last six months. One of the highlights so far was the United Arab Emirates’ National Flag Day and the Netherlands’ National Day at Expo 2020 Dubai. “A unique day, every sponsor got the opportunity to do a 5-minute elevator pitch to His Majesty the King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Máxima, Minister de Bruijn and Mayor Aboutaleb. An inspiring day with a lot of cross-pollinations for new project ideas,” says Jurnjan. Also in the near future, the partners want to inspire and enthuse the visitors for local food production with minimal use of water and fossil fuels, says Rob. “In the Dutch pavilion, it is clear that the technology is already there. We are developing further, in the coming years, and we are convinced that we are going to meet people who are open to developing with us!”
“We believe that Expo 2020 Dubai is redefining the world of healthy food production,” concludes Fouad Ababou. “We want to show the world the data-driven and sustainable future of horticulture.”