Greenhouse horticulture is taking an important step in energy transition by capturing CO2 from outside air

April 22, 2024

The greenhouse horticulture sector is conducting research into how the CO2 needed to grow plants in greenhouses can be captured from the outside air. Currently, greenhouse growers often use CO2 that is released during the combustion of natural gas in the boilers and cogeneration units that heat the greenhouses. Because more and more greenhouse horticulture entrepreneurs are moving away from natural gas and growing in a sustainable and climate-neutral greenhouse, new CO2 sources are needed. CO2 from outside air can be an important option.

The research into the capture of CO2 from outdoor air is carried out in the Innovation and Demonstration Center (IDC) CO2 from Outdoor Air at Wageningen University & Research, Business Unit Greenhouse Horticulture in Bleiswijk. The center was opened on Monday, April 22, 2024, at the invitation of Glastuinbouw Nederland, by Minister Adema of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV). “As a top sector, greenhouse horticulture continues to lead the way in the field of knowledge development and innovation. And I'm proud of that! The sector has already taken many steps in energy saving and sustainability and with this new technology we will accelerate this even further. In this way, the sector can become climate neutral by 2040 and remain a global leader," the minister said during the opening.

Entrepreneurs in greenhouse horticulture are taking major steps to produce climate-neutral flowers, plants, vegetables and fruit by 2040. CO2 is one of the most important raw materials for plant growth. Currently, the vast majority of that CO2 still comes from the combustion of natural gas in heating boilers and combined heat and power units (CHPs). In a climate-neutral greenhouse without gas, CO2 must come from other sources. Outside air can be an important alternative source.

Photo: photo studio Sarah Vlekke

Important solution

Chairman Adri Bom-Lemstra of Glastuinbouw Nederland is happy with the arrival of the IDC. “Greenhouse horticulture is fully active in the energy transition. CO2 supply is one of the major bottlenecks in this regard. If we succeed in capturing sufficiently pure CO2 from outside air in an affordable manner, we can solve this bottleneck. The IDC can play an important role in this.”

Six systems tested

Until 2026, six different systems that capture CO2 from outside air will be tested and demonstrated at the IDC. “In this project we are investigating the feasibility of these systems,” says Alexander Boedijn, researcher at WUR Greenhouse Horticulture. “Is the CO2 of sufficient quality to administer to plants, what is the energy consumption of CO2 capture and how can the systems be optimally applied in greenhouses?”