How will greenhouse farming look in the future? It’s food for futurologists. A script for a science fiction movie. But there are already enough indications of what may lie ahead. In fact, many techniques and technologies already exist. 75-year-old KUBO is looking ahead to 2045, the year of - if all goes well - our 100th anniversary.
WHERE ARE THE GROWERS?
The first requirement on a greenhouse farm is currently the grower. But with the advent of autonomous growing, it will no longer be necessary for each company to have its own growing specialist. Very large greenhouse complexes, spanning many tens of hectares, will be able to manage with the expertise of just a few growers. They will be able to rely on the support of smart computer systems that respond to changes faster, better and in a more energy-efficient way. And what seems unthinkable now will soon be reality: thanks to real-time information from computers, companies will achieve record yields. Exit green fingers.
THE ‘SMART’ GREENHOUSE IS HERE
The invention that sounds most like something out of science fiction is probably the tomato-picking robot. They’ve already been working on it for twenty years, and the first prototypes are now being tested in countries such as Japan, China and Israel. Large corporations are also interested in this development. It’s not quite moving fast enough yet, but the picking robot is on its way. In 2045, it will take up work alongside the leaf-picking robot, which already exists. This will relieve labour-intensive greenhouse horticulture of a major problem: the ever-increasing shortage of people.
BUYING VEGETABLES AT... THE MARKETPLACE
The consumer and grower will join forces. Consumers will take out a subscription with a vegetable supplier and get their stuff fresh from the greenhouse. This vegetable supplier will be a marketplace in which many small growers offer their products online. Thanks to short lines of communication, growers will receive immediate feedback from consumers about what is tasty and what is not. As a result, product development will shift into top gear. The concept is already viable in Montreal, where the Canadian company Lufa Farms supplies 10,000 consumers with fresh food every week. Grown in a KUBO greenhouse, of course.
STAR WARS IN THE GREENHOUSE
Greenhouse horticulture is already on its way to becoming chemicalfree. Drones could be the final step. The first drone capable of detecting diseases and pests is already with us. Once pests have been discovered, a drone can be used as a spraying robot. ‘Precision bombing’ is also possible: mini-drones can detect insects effectively and render them harmless with their propellers. May the Force be with you. Always.
HORTICULTURE WILL BE CIRCULAR
Water containing nutrients will be reused. Excess CO2 from industry will be pumped into greenhouses. Heat will come from the ground. The greenhouse will be 100 per cent circular. Even waste from the greenhouse, such as leaves and stems, will be put to new use as a raw material for packaging or as green fuel. All the materials used in the greenhouse and installations will also be given a new lease of life.
NOT JUST VEGETABLES AND FLOWERS
Westland, the home of KUBO, has been growing tomatoes on a large scale for three-quarters of a century. In 2045, the same Westland tomato grower may well be a producer of medicines. Using high-tech greenhouses (such as KUBO’s Ultra-Clima), growing cannabis may be a solution for the pharmaceutical sector. Or the grower may become a supplier to the cosmetics sector (fragrances for perfumes) or the packaging industry (packaging from waste).
WE’LL BE GROWING ON MARS
There are still some challenges to overcome: the temperature can fall to -140 degrees on Mars. But experiments with growing on ‘the new Earth’ are already underway. NASA has taken seeds into space to see what happens to them. Tests are underway to monitor the effects of gravity on plant growth. And absolutely nothing can be lost on Mars. A greenhouse on Mars is an ecosystem in miniature. Even the human waste of the new residents will be used as manure. But, um... will we still want to eat those tomatoes?
IS THIS WESTLAND?
Once the world’s largest interconnected greenhouse farming area. Soon to be Silicon Valley, Westland style. A breeding ground for innovative entrepreneurs. And for world-conquering concepts. A pressure cooker for suppliers and researchers from TNO, TU and WUR who are closely interlinked, and who allow Westland to excel through a continuous stream of innovative ideas. It will turn the familiar image of Westland - greenhouses, greenhouses, and more greenhouses - completely upside down. But it will also make the region more modern and relevant than ever.