Protected cultivation in greenhouses makes it possible by capturing the suns energy to raise inside temperature. Several properties of the cover materials contribute to crop productivity, quality and even the content of healthy compounds.
The amount of sun radiation entering the greenhouse determines its temperature; light in the PAR wavelength range drives photosynthesis, the fundamental motor of crop production; the wavelength composition of light has a signalling effect on crop development and on the content of nutraceuticals of food products and the geometrical distribution of light affects crop productivity. In addition, the properties of the cover (and additional screen) material(s) determine the energy that is lost at night, requiring replacement by heating.
There is a great need and a huge potential for the development and application of smart or adaptable cover materials that would make it possible to control the quantity, spectral composition and geometrical distribution of solar radiation entering the greenhouse. Next to light and temperature, a smart control of the growth factors CO and humidity is very important to optimize crop production and nutritional food products. New selective membranes and other smart or adaptable materials are needed so that a microclimate and light environment is generated that maximizes food production and desired quality aspects and containing healthy components, while minimizing/nullifying the need for fossil energy. This program will benefit from a two pronged approach: the adaptation of existing knowledge and materials to solve horticultural challenges, but also new higher-risk/higher-reward research to solve these challenges.
The long-term goal is that new greenhouse production systems will utilize sunlight in a very efficient way since they will be covered with smart or adaptable materials. Solar light at any climate zone in the world will be converted into a form (quantity, quality, geometrical distribution) exactly needed by the crop to produce fresh products with high yield, good taste and high in healthy components. All growth factors (light, temperature, CO, humidity) will be controlled by smart or adaptable materials in order to reach a minimum input of resources during food production (energy, CO, water).
The program is a cross over of TKI TU and HTSM (High-tech 2 Feed the World) and offers a unique collaboration of horticultural supply industry with high-tech industry, as well as a unique collaboration between academic researchers in the areas of horticulture and chemistry to design new greenhouse production concepts with smart materials for the horticultural industry that could be applied on a huge scale.
The Dutch horticultural sector will profit from knowledge brought in from the international high-tech industry and will benefit from the knowledge and new products developed in this program. At the same time the visibility of the Dutch greenhouse horticulture as a high-tech production sector is directly enlarged.