Posted on

Netherlands greenhouse agriculture targets climate-neutrality by 2040

invernadero climatizado

As the Dutch greenhouse agricultural sector aims to be climate-neutral by 2040, sustainable alternatives to natural gas are constantly being sought. Around twenty greenhouse producers now use a form of bio-energy to heat their farm, such as a biomass boiler for heat or a bio-cogeneration (bio-CHP) for heat and electricity.

There are different types of woody biomass, each with its own chain and its own advantages and disadvantages. Biomass boilers in greenhouse horticulture run on three types of woody biomass: wood pellets, wood chips and shreds. Most greenhouse growers use local woodchip or wood shreds, which are easily available from nearby forests and other locations. Municipalities see this as a useful use of local waste. However, the use of wood pellets is expected to rise. Pellets are compressed and dried, have a high energy density and contain up to 15% less moisture. These pellets are made from sawdust from the wood-processing industry or from clean waste wood.

There is an international market for pellets as they can be transported and stored cheaply over longer distances. It is important however to ensure that the pellets have been produced sustainably. The pellets are used in a different type of boiler than wood shreds. These boilers are often cheaper and require less maintenance as the pellets tend to be of consistent quality. There also tends to be less ash residue after combustion. However, the pellets are more expensive than shreds as they require more processing (grinding, drying and pressing).

Posted on

Electronic nose can ‘smell’ when compost is ready to use

Knowing when compost has broken down enough to be used as fertiliser will be easier thanks to a device developed by researchers at the Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology of Seville (IRNAS-CSIC) and the University of Huelva.

Knowing when compost has broken down enough to be used as fertiliser will be easier thanks to a device developed by researchers at the Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology of Seville (IRNAS-CSIC) and the University of Huelva.

Their electronic nose detects gases given off by organic matter in the compost and the resulting data, which undergoes computer analysis, reveals whether it is at its optimum point and not toxic to the plants it is to be used on.

According to an IRNAS-CSIC press release, it is the first time that an e-nose has been used in this way in the area of organic waste composting.

Project manager Rafael López

This new tool from the Andalusian researchers can measure up to 10 different odors. “During the composting process, hundreds of gases with their own characteristic odors are emitted that provide information about the (maturity of the) compost,” said project manager Rafael López.

Compost is okay to use once it has matured and is no longer phytotoxic, in other words not harmful to plants that may be grown in it, he said.

Immature compost can stunt, harm and even kill plants.