Breugem Horticulture in Bleiswijk, the Netherlands cultivates tomatoes on 5.5 hectares. Since 2020, Growficient substrate sensors are being used for monitoring and optimising the irrigation strategy. Sebastiaan Breugem explains about his experiences so far and about his ambitions with Growficient.
Limited insights substrate
Sebastiaan used to use two scales in his greenhouse to monitor and steer the irrigation. These are placed in two different watering sections. However, according to Sebastiaan, this provides him with limited insights regarding to steering information for his entire greenhouse.
‘’Before we started with Growficient, our wish was to have multiple measuring points throughout the greenhouse.’’, according to Sebastiaan. ‘’We wanted the possibility to get a better and more reliable image of what we are doing regarding the irrigation and how that works out in the greenhouse. Normally, we did that based on two scales placed on two different gutters. But the 4 slabs that are on these two scales are not necessarily representative for what happens in the rest of the greenhouse.’’
He indicates that they normally looked at the weight of the slabs and thus also their dry-out. ‘’But that is only in two spots. And to base your whole irrigation strategy on that is of course quite remarkable. Especially when a head is broken or something similar, then the scale is not representative at all anymore. If you fail to notice this in time, you can make mistakes.’’
Sebastiaan thinks that improving the irrigation strategy starts with gathering reliable data throughout the entire greenhouse.
He states that this has been accomplished by using the sensors of Growficient. ‘’Now we have measuring points in each watering sections, even multiple ones per gutter. You get to know your greenhouse even better and the insights help to exclude unnecessary risks.’’, according to Sebastiaan.
They always looked at the drain percentages as well to see if the slabs got wetter or drier, but: ‘’With these drain figures you’re often overtaken by the events. The advantage that we have now is that you have a lot more insight and can follow the events directly within the slab without having to wait for drainage to occur. Also, the heatmap (ground plan with the sensors in it, red.) is a valuable addition. With it, it is easy to see through time how differences develop between watering sections and between the sensors.’’
Regarding the influence the sensors have on his strategy, he says: ‘’Above all it creates peace of mind and mistakes are less likely to occur. The lines that our strategy is based on are more reliable.’’
He also thinks the strategy could be further improved by optimising the start and stop moments for irrigation.
Steering information: scale vs. sensors
When it comes to differences between the scales and the sensors, Sebastiaan indicates: ‘’The sensors give you the ability to steer on watering section level if needed. That is one of the biggest gains.’’
In addition to that he has thought about the next steps he wants to take, starting with next season. ‘’For us it is important to start working with threshold values next year. That is an area where we can still improve in. We now trust the system; it works well and gives clear insights.’’ Working with threshold values is important to anticipate and irrigate proactively, Sebastiaan thinks.
He is in favor of a connection to the climate computer, so that the threshold values can become an influence within the computer: ‘’Then you can really create a steering on the sensors. To only do that on the two scales is a weird thing, but with multiple sensors spread throughout the greenhouse this is much better.’’
When he is asked if he thinks he still needs the scale after that, he says: ‘’The scale could now be phased out. Working with the sensors is reliable and you can work more flexible and in detail.’’
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