Millions for research in vertical agriculture, animal welfare and water management in Wageningen

Published on
November 11, 2019

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is to receive more than €8 million from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and participating bodies for two major research programmes, one involving tower garden systems using LEDs and the other focussing on improvements in the welfare of pigs and chickens. A third project, with WUR as a partner, is about sustainable fresh water management in the Dutch delta.

The recipients of the so-called Perspectief round 2019 funding were announced today during the annual ‘Teknowlogy’ event hosted by NWO’s Applied and Engineering Sciences domain.

Tower gardens using LEDs

SKY HIGH: Vertical farming, a revolution in plant production

SKY HIGH, a research programme led by Professor of Horticulture & Product Physiology Leo Marcelis, aims to bring about a revolution in vertical farming.

SKY HIGH: Vertical farming, a revolution in plant production
SKY HIGH: Vertical farming, a revolution in plant production

‘The increasing world population needs to be fed, while more and more people live in cities, there is often too little water, and we want our vegetables to have more and more nutritional value. By growing plants in layers on top of each other and illuminating them with special LED lights, you can produce fresh vegetables all year round, anywhere in the world, and under all weather and climate conditions,’ says programme leader Prof. Leo Marcelis.

Researchers working on the SKY HIGH programme will cooperate with lighting specialists, plant breeding companies, growers, horticultural technology companies, architects and food suppliers to make vertical agriculture systems cheaper and more energy-efficient. Another aim is to produce vegetables and herbs that taste better, have longer shelf lives and provide more nutritional value, while using the absolute minimum of water and fertilisers and no pesticides.

SKY HIGH programme leader: Prof. Leo Marcelis (WUR).

Other participants: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS), Bayer, Bosman Van Zaal, Certhon, Fresh Forward, Grodan, GrowX, HAS University of Applied Sciences, OneFarm, Own Greens, Priva, Signify (Philips Lighting), Solynta, TU Delft, Eindhoven University of Technology, Unilever, Leiden University, Utrecht University, University of Amsterdam, and Van Bergen Kolpa Architecten.

Total grant: €5 million.

Improved welfare for pigs and chickens

IMAGEN (AnIMAL Group sENsor: Integrating behavioural dynamics and social genetic effects to improve the health, welfare and ecological footprint of livestock)

The IMAGEN programme brings together research on animal behaviour and computer science to improve the health and welfare of pigs and laying hens and to reduce the ecological footprint of food production.

The researchers are developing a system that automatically monitors the behaviour of pigs and poultry in large groups. The system will be able to identify the perpetrators and victims of undesirable behaviour such as tail biting or pecking, in order to prevent animal suffering and premature fatalities. In addition, the researchers will examine the relationships between genes and behaviour, so they can identify animals that are genetically the most suited to living peacefully and comfortably in large groups. Participants include animal breeders, technology companies, the Netherlands Agricultural and Horticultural Association, the Royal Netherlands Veterinary Association and the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals.

IMAGEN programme leader: Dr Piter Bijma (WUR).

Other participants: Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals, Farm Result, Hendrix Genetics, KNMvD, Noldus Information Technology, Sorama, Eindhoven University of Technology, Topigs Norsvin, Utrecht University, and Vencomatic.

Total grant: €3 million.

WUR is also actively participating in the programme:

Safeguarding freshwater supplies with virtual delta

SALTISolutions (Salt intrusion through urbanizing deltas: Solutions)

Freshwater is crucial for the provision of drinking water, the environment, agriculture and the industry, but the supply of this water is under pressure in deltas all over the world. Researchers participating in the SALTISolutions programme will join forces with local stakeholders to create a virtual model (digital twin) of the Rhine-Meuse delta. The model will integrate knowledge of processes at various spatial and temporal scales: from turbulent flows at the tiniest scale to the long-term consequences of climate change. The aim is to predict how, where, when and for how long salt from seawater will penetrate freshwater sources and how measures such as the implementation of nature-based solutions will affect the freshwater supply.

The project results a total of 3 PhD projects for the Wageningen chair group Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management, coordinated by Prof. Ton Hoitink for the sub-project Salt Dispersion across scales and design or Counter Measures and Prof. Albrecht Weerts for The Virtual Delta sub-project.

SALTISolutions programme leader: Prof. J.D. Pietrzak (TU Delft).

Other participants are WUR, Arcadis, ARK, Boskalis, Bureau Waardenburg, BAM, Deltares, Evides, Flanders Hydraulics, Port of Amsterdam, Port of Rotterdam, HKV, Rijnland District Water Control Board, Schieland and the Krimpenerwaard water authority, Hydrologic, Royal NIOZ, Nortek-NL, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Rijkswaterstaat, Royal HaskoningDHV, STOWA, Svasek, TU Delft, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Twente, Utrecht University, Van Oord, VEMW, VEWIN, Hollandse Delta water authority and WWF Netherlands.

Total grant: more than six million euros.

The Perspectief programme is funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy through NWO. The programme challenges researchers to establish new research lines with an economic and social impact in close cooperation with the business community and civil society organisations.