Ad Hurks is a consultant in different types of soft fruit in the soft fruit industry and is active in this sector worldwide. For example he advises growers growing raspberry plants. As of last year, he and several of his clients have been using Growficient to monitor and optimise their irrigation strategy.
Importance of a decent irrigation strategy
According to Ad, a good irrigation strategy for raspberries starts with a good irrigation system, good outlet water and good nutrition scheme. Also, a well-buffered substrate, pots with a high drainage capacity and of course high-quality plants are important. Specifically, the way of watering is an important steering factor in the raspberry cultivation, for example for inducing generativity by means of water stress. ‘’But it all happens based on intuition. And if that doesn’t work, the plants remain vegetative, and you will harvest later. Having a tool to monitor this most definitely helps’’, according to Ad. And like this there are multiple aspects in the cultivation of raspberries where a good irrigation strategy plays an important role.
What problems do growers encounter?
According to Ad, one of the problems growers face is that they need to steer the irrigation largely on intuition. It is especially important to determine the right moments to start and stop watering. ‘’ Before the night the pot needs to lose its water and, in the morning, you will have to start again at the moment the plants start taking up water again.’’ But those crucial moments are often still determined on intuition. ‘’In the morning, you check whether you did it right the day before. If the substrate is too wet after the night, you will have to start watering later.’’ Inspection thus takes place afterwards.
Determining the right moments for watering based on intuition is quite a subjective thing according to Ad: ‘’If there are 8 different growers that are given the same materials and plants to grow with, one will always obtain a better result than the other. And like this, determining the right moments for watering is also difficult.’’
What are the advantages of Growficient?
According to Ad, that is one of the reasons why it is important to have a good tool to monitor the irrigation. With the help of the Growficient dashboard it is possible to point out the right start- and stop-moments for watering, thinks Ad. He adds: ‘’And when it is possible to visualise the information by means of data in a dashboard, it is possible to talk about it and to show what you mean.’’ That way it is possible to learn from the data and to refine the irrigation strategy.
Being able to look in the dashboard of his clients is also one of the advantages that help helps Ad in his role as a consultant. ‘’You can authorise access to your dashboard to anyone you want. Sometimes I can see things happening in the dashboard of a grower and then we can get in touch about what was happening there and then. That way, you keep each other alert.’’ This remote insight via the dashboard is also one of the reasons Ad believes Growficient creates some peace of mind for growers: ‘’For example in the weekends, people also have other things to do. If you can then assess the situation in the substrate remotely, it can save time.’’
Furthermore, by determining the right moments for watering using the dashboard, one can prevent problems regarding root health: ‘’During the moments you give too much water, problems with diseases like pythium, phytophthora or verticillium can occur.’’ ‘’With a good irrigation strategy, you should be able to obtain better overall results.’’, Ad adds
Future: autonomous irrigation
Ad thinks connecting the Growficient system to the climate computer is important. The goal is to be able to give water autonomously via this connection. ‘’Autonomous irrigation is getting more and more up-to-date and in order to facilitate that a direct measurement in the substrate is essential.’’, according to Ad. ‘’Everything that can be automated to allow for a more efficient way of working is beneficial. I think many growers will get very enthusiast when they are able to steer on for example dry-out.’’
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