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Smart farming: Cutting edge horti-centre opens at Stellenbosch

On 20th October 2022 a consortium of partners in the horticultural sector, including local and Dutch companies, in partnership with Stellenbosch University, will officially open the brand new HortiDemoCentre. The Horti Demo Centre, on the grounds of the University of Stellenbosch’s Welgevallen-experimental farm, was officially established in May 2022.

Soon after that components for the almost 3000m2 large and six metre-high greenhouse arrived in South Africa construction commenced so that the first plants, grafted tomato seedlings, could be planted at the start of the South African spring.

With the support of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) and consortium partners, enough financial means were collected to realize the centre. It will specialise in protected horticulture and showcase the best and most cutting-edge in Dutch horticultural technology.

According to a media release, the centre “will work towards being a viable business by implementing innovative Dutch technologies for profitable, sustainable and climate smart agronomy and offering training to students (and eventually jobs) and emerging farmers.”

A centre pathway of concrete provides easy access for crop cultivation and harvesting activities.

Partner members include: Delphy BV, Stellenbosch University, Greener Solutions (a South African company), Ludvig Svensson, Ridder Group, Rijk Zwaan, Koppert South Africa, and Control Union.

The aim is to develop, together with South African farmers, a business case for production for high end markets in South Africa. Target groups of the centre include commercial and emerging farmers, students, agronomists, researchers, local government and extension services, and value chain actors such as buyers and retailers.

The HortiDemoCentre wants to focus on the entire value chain so that markets for products will be improved and ultimately jobs could be created with climate-smart horticulture.

Rainwater is harvested and storage is installed for 500 000 litres. The water is recycled, but first disinfected by UVC radiation using a Ridder Vitalite system.
A bio-security entrance room helps maintain hygiene.

LESS WATER, LESS PESTICIDES

The Horti Demo Centre follows the principles of circularity: recirculation of water (it will run on predominantly rainwater) and nutrients within the system, resulting in massive water savings and moreover, eliminates the risk of environmental contamination. Inside, pest pressure and the concomitant use of chemical pesticides will be dramatically reduced by the insect netting at all openings. It will be able to generate local and nonpartisan data on vegetable varieties on behalf of commercial seed companies through being administered by Stellenbosch University.

The pump room is part of the greenhouse and covered in double walled polycarbonate instead of greenhouse film. Fertigation is the responsibility of the Ridder FertiMix unit, sized for this facility. Four fertiliser dosing channels provide various recipe options.

THE CENTRE AIMS TO:

• Provide training on good farming practices and entrepreneurship for new and existing growers (students) and (emerging)commercial farmers.

• Engage role players and develop a new market for sustainable agriculture and technologies such as on water efficiency, climate resistant inputs, biological pest management, post-harvest inspection and certification.

• Contribute to food security by increasing the local production and availability of quality food products and allow access to premium markets.


OPEN DAY

The opening of the HortiDemoCentre will take place on Thursday 20th October. The HortiDemoCentre will host an open day for the public on 21st October 2022 from 09:00 – 15:00 at Welgevallen Experimental Farm, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch.

For more information, please contact Dr Estelle Kempen on 079 881 5058 or estellekempen@sun.ac.za

An Undercover Farming Conference will also take place at Allee Bleue Estate, Groot Drakenstein on 19 & 20 October 2022. The event will feature lectures by agronomy experts from Stellenbosch University, an online session with Dutch agronomy students, speakers from the business sector explaining insurance to the sector – and much more.

For more detail on speakers, sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, click here.

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