What if you could provide beginning growers in developing countries with a growing system that could be fully computer controlled remotely by experts from abroad? South African company Eden Green claims to have the solution for this with their Hydroclimaponics concept; a fully computer controlled high yielding growing system, that is not only able to monitor and control a crop at micro plant level, but also conserves more water and energy compared to current hydroponic systems.
The Hydroclimaponics system consists of a vertical farming cultivation setup with specially engineered vertical pipes through which nutrients and water can flow. So far nothing new, but what makes the Hydroclimaponics system different from other vertical growing systems is a very tiny hole in the pipe, near each plant. This tiny hole is the key to the system; it directs airflow, temperature and CO2 towards each plant at a micro climate level.
"This tiny hole near each plant enables us to control the micro climate around each crop precisely, with huge energy savings as a result", said Theo Cilliers of Eden Green, the company that developed the Hydroclimaponics tubes. "The climate inside the greenhouse can be at a more efficient and steady level, with much lower or higher temperatures for example, and the temperature near each plant can be at a desired level for optimal growth, and so can the airflow and CO2. Hereby you conserve much energy as you only need to control the climate that surrounds each plant."
As well as this, the inner side of the tubes are designed in a special way that the water flow from top to bottom falls in a special way in order to increase the oxygen levels in the water. "This also results in much water conservation compared to current hydroponic systems."
The crops are planted in small buckets which are inserted in these pipes; the computer controls all the nutrients and CO2 flow and the crops can take up as much as they need. The tiny black dots on the pipes near each plant are the holes that direct? temperature, air and CO2 to the plants.
According to Cilliers, the Hydroclimaponics system is a gamechanger for both efficient vertical food production. "Due to the more efficient use of climate, water and CO2, our system is able to grow 700 plants per square meter compared to 250-400 plants per square meter in any other hydroponic system, with less inputs."
Cilliers explained that the group has been working on the system for many years already. They have taken many aspects into account, from the light penetration into the crop, towards the most efficient water flow and optimal root development.? It was their objective to not just develop a new and efficient hydroponic system, but moreover to create a robust system that could be installed in places with lack of local food supply and remotely operated by experts abroad.
Third world countries
"Finally, with the help of our strategic partners like Priva, we have created a robust and modular system that is specially designed to grow high yielding crops in developing countries. As the Hydroclimaponic system and its micro climate can be controlled by a computer remotely, it's very easy to grow the crop with the help of expert supervision from abroad. This makes the solution extremely suitable to provide food safety in third world countries. Think about an experienced grower in Holland who is directing 25 farms across Africa from his desktop. We can offer a complete solution and the only thing the local growers need to take care of are the seeding and harvesting schemes."
But it's not just developing countries that Eden Green focuses on. "We also target the Middle East, where growing high yielding food crops is a challenge for growers due to the extreme climate and lack of fresh water", said Cilliers.
"The system is designed to be robust enough for intensive production at low cost in virtually any environment. It uses a supply of re-circulated, nutrient-rich, UV-filtered water that is continuously temperature controlled. Due to the smart design of the tubes, an enormous amount of water can be saved compared with other hydroponic systems as there is no evaporation and no water is spoiled inside a growing media."
Currently, Eden Green has developed a 500 square meter R&D center for their system in South Africa and the first projects are underway in Australia and Singapore. "At the Greentech exhibition we have received great interest in the system and we plan to roll out more projects over the world soon. As well as this we are now looking at including more nutritious crops like strawberries too."