The horticultural industry is an important economic sector in the developing world. New innovations are key to horticulture's success. The horticultural industry is founded on an intensive interaction between governmental research institutions and private companies. Knowledge transfer is crucial.
January 25, 2016
Kenya’s Meru University of Science and Technology has developed a sensor-based automatic irrigation system that helps farmers to reduce crop losses from droughts and dry spells by 60%. The system is based on solar energy and a mobile app to control soil moisture. It monitors the water need of a field and is capable of automatically watering specific for crop needs. Furthermore it is capable of informing a technician in case of a problem. Developed at the university’s experimental farm and launched last year, the system is now being applied by farmers in the field. The system has an initial costs of 50.000 Kenyan shilling (480USD) per quarter acre but cuts labor costs, water usage and crop losses. For this new innovation the university was awarded an award by the Water Services Trust Fund in November last year. For more information please click here.
January 12, 2016
A team of the International Potato Center (CIP) have been honored with the World Food Price 2016 for promoting the research and distribution of orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP). The four Laureates are Dr. Maria Andrade of Cape Verde, Dr. Robert Mwanga of Uganda, and Dr. Jan Low and Dr. Howarth Bouis of the United States. While Dr. Andrade and Dr. Mwanga were the responsible scientists for developing the biofortified, vitamin A enriched crop, using conventional breeding techniques, Dr. Low conducted studies with local communities to find out food preferences and strategies to increase acceptance for the new crop. Dr. Bouis, the leader of the IFPRI led project HarvestPlus provided crucial support together with USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others. Besides the fact that the crop is combating hidden hunger through its high vitamin A content, OFSP was also bred to be disease-resistant, drought-tolerant and high yielding.Through an integrated approach that included also extension services, nutrition education, marketing and dissemination strategies the team has positively impacted more than 10 million people and several more of future generations. For more information about the OFSP and the four Laureates please click here.
December 19, 2016
A new study by Jain et al., 2016 of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), gives insights into how micro-satellites can rise our understanding of small scale farmers. Due to the problem that imagery of satellites is generally very costly and hard to obtain for small sections of land it is very challenging to get the necessary amount of information on small scale farms especially in developing countries. Through the innovative drive of private organizations that have started to send their own micro-satellites into the orbit, access of information can improve a lot. The micro-satellites are smaller, relatively short-living, and cheaper to produce and maintain and thus lower the cost of satellite imagery, while allowing for a temporal and spatial extension of observations. Management practices such as crop health, irrigation use, and soil analysis can be observed. When combined with biophysical and socio-economic data the new information of micro-satellites can be used for monitoring, adaptation and innovation. For more information please click here.
November 13, 2016
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has donated the first Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS) of East Africa to the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB). The machine is able to detect even small concentrations of micronutrients and metals, including heavy metals that can be contaminants in food and pose high risks to human health. With the new equipment Rwanda will be able to test its produce and that of surrounding countries by itself rather than sending it abroad for analysis, which took ca 60 days and was very cosly. With the new equipment Rwanda can make sure to meet international export standards. This will enhance the country’s trade of horticultural produce and provide an opportunity to Rwanda to become a “regional hub for testing samples from countries in the region”. The technology can also be used for testing waste water, which creates numerous opportunities to improve health and sanitation in the area. For more information please click here and here.
November 1, 2016
Researchers and engineers at the University of Sydney's Australian Centre for Field Robotics have made tremendous progress in developing robots to assist farmers in monitoring, managing and harvesting crops. Supported by Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA) with 10 million USD, the centre has just opened a new research hub for horticulture robotics in October. Horticulture Innovation Australia is a non-for-profit Research and Development and marketing company, funded by both the government and growers. Tests in a total of 10 farms in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania are promising and lead developers to believe the first commercially available robots might become available within “a couple of years”. For more information please click here, or visit HIA’s website directly.
October 24, 2016
Together with a group of 20 volunteers Heather Grove has started a new model of community-based urban farming that is changing private lawns into vegetable gardens. Every other Sunday Heather and her team pack their tools, jump on their bikes and visit a total of 11 private gardens whose owners have agreed to hand over their lawns to the community for the production of food. The initial form of Fleet Farming originated in British Columbia, Canada and was developed by Curtis Stone. It is based on the realization that urban lawns are resource demanding and can be made more sustainable if those resources are used for food production instead. According to Heather “Americans use about 800 million gallons of gas a year mowing their lawns” and “Lawns are also the largest irrigated crop in the U.S., almost double corn.” Furthermore, enabling the community to buy their food from local production reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the fleet themselves are using mainly bicycles as their means of transportation. Since 2014 the group has developed 11 gardens of 30 to 140 square meters each. The produce is sold on a farmers’ market the profit of which is shared with the garden owners and they can of course keep produce for themselves. In addition the homeowners have the benefits of beautiful gardens without own efforts. For more information please read the original article here.
October 14, 2016
Farmers in Uganda are being trained to turn their sweet potato waste into silage for tough times. Whereas vines, peelings and low quality tubers were fed to pigs directly before, the new technology preserves the material and increases food security in times of feed shortage. Thanks to the research of the International Potato Center (CIP) and others the potential of sweet potato in fighting malnutrition and poverty is being newly discovered. In the districts of Masaka and Kamuli farmers are being trained at three silage making business centres that opened in September. Besides classes on how to make silage the centres also teach about sweet potato management practices and high yielding varieties. Sweet potato is a major crop in East Africa with Uganda as the biggest producer. Besides reducing the costs of pig farmers for feed and increasing meat production the silage technology is also supposed to increase income for sweet potato farmers, reduce waste, and create jobs. For more information please click here.
September 29, 2016
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology seem to have found a way that could reduce pesticide use to just 1/10 of current rates. Since most leaves are hydrophobic, which means they repel water, and most pesticides are water based, only 2% of pesticides stay effectively on the plant. In a paper in the journal Nature Communications Kripa Varanasi, Maher Damak, Seyed Reza Mahmoudi, and Md Nasim Hyder published the results of their new technology, in which they combined two components one of which has a positive and the other a negative charge. Those two polyelectrolytes then form a hydrophilic layer the moment they combine on the leaf, which attracts instead of repels water. This and the fact that the additives are biodegradable lowers the amount of pesticides running off the leave significantly. Besides reducing environmental impacts due to pesticide runoff the technology will also benefit farmers tremendously by mitigating the health risk related to pesticide exposure and minimizing their cost for pest control. The technology could also be used in other management practices that rely on the application of water specifically to leaves, such as for the prevention of frost damage. You can find more information, including a video demonstrating the new technology here. To read the publication click here.
September 12, 2016
With an automated cloud-based system that tracks produce shipments, the Kenyan government hopes to give exporters a helping hand. Until now exporters, who collect produce from a variety of different small-holder farmers faced the risk that their whole shipment was rejected in case that quality standards were not met on arrival at export markets. The government hopes that the system will help improve the reputation of Kenyan produce and open new markets. The innovation is a response to a request of the European Union in 2014 to address food safety in Kenyan produce. With the new system crops can be tracked from planting time to harvest through a mobile application. The data is then saved in a web portal and the produce will be labelled with a QR code that allows to track the produce back to its origin through GPS coordinates. To read more about the topic, click here.
September 5, 2016
At the CHART Art Fair in Copenhagen the exhibitor space10 and architects Mads-Ulrik Husum & Sine Lindholm presented their new urban farming design that combines innovation for a more sustainable future with practicality and visual appeal. The Growroom is a pavilion than can offer recreational as well as artistic value to urban citizens while also provide food and education. Having the shape of a globe its walls consist of small plant beds in consecutive levels that are planted with various vegetable species and herbs. For pictures and more information please click here.
August 31, 2016
At the New Zealand Horticulture Conference researchers and producers discussed the potential of drones to increase efficiency of horticultural production. Whether soil monitoring, disease detection or spraying, drones could be used for a range of management requirements. With a decreasing availability of workers and an increasing demand for sustainable management, producers are in dire need of innovation. Equipped with cameras, sensors sprayer and more drones can leverage some workload and increase efficiency. This way we can get a better understanding of e.g. the right harvesting time and address the individual needs of trees in an orchard. However the new technology needs to be improved especially to be cost-efficient. The Multipurpose Orchard Robotics project, a collaboration between Robotics Plus, Plant and Food Research and Auckland and Waikato Universities, leases drones to producers, while a team of 21 engineers and scientists are improving the technology. The project started in 2015 and has a total of 10 million $ for four years. For more information please click here.
August 18, 2016
A new app, developed by the Swedish company Ignitia, that can predict chances of rain with twice the accuracy of previous models is helping farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa to increase their yields. With GPS and an accuracy of 84% compared to just 39% of other models the app makes it easier for farmers to take informed decisions on their management practices. The new information and communication technology is currently available to farmers in six African countries, namely Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal and has attracted 80 000 users in just half a year. With a price that the app won at the Agricultural Innovation Investment Summit of United States Agency for International Development and with further support of the United States, Sweden, South Africa, and the Netherlands Ignitia wants to make the app available to more farmers in more African countries. For more information please click here.
August 10, 2016
With his group GROWING NORTH, Ben Canning, a 21 year old student at Ryerson University has built the first greenhouse for local vegetable production in Nunavut, northern Canada. In a region where fresh produce costs up to three times more than down south and most people have never seen locally produced fruit or vegetable the 42' Geodesic Greenhouse, with its hydroponic towers are a true novelty. The greenhouse is meant to produce vegetables at half of their import costs and ultimately enable locals to eat healthier. It is also used for educational purposes and provides work to the local community. Ben and his team have combined a vertical hydroponic system with a passive solar design to heat the greenhouse, which is based on a large black water tub and a reflector that together capture the energy of the sun. Three to four hours of daily sunlight are sufficient to create the temperature that the plants need, which is possible for about seven months a year. With a more efficient heating and light installation the greenhouse is even expected to allow for production throughout the whole year. For more information please click here.
July 26, 2016
Although collecting left-over crops from already harvested fields has a long tradition in Spain the new gleaning movement has reached a new level of fighting food-waste with the brand ‘Es Imperfect’. The jams, soups and sauces made of crops that nobody wants yet are so urgently needed are enjoying such high popularity in the country that the number of retailers almost tripled since January this year and some stores were sold out within a few hours. ‘Es Imperfect’ products are currently produced by a local family business but the project of the social enterprise Espigoladors is planned to have its own processing plant, soon. With more than 100 volunteers Espigoladors started out and still continues to deliver recovered produce to food banks and is now also planning to increase its outreach and education activities. Besides fighting for food security the gleaning movement also has the potential to contribute to reduced pressure on land, better nutrition and social integration of excluded groups. For more information please click here.
July 15, 2016
In the province Passoré the Welthungerhilfe together with plantwise and other partners, supported by Britain’s Department for International Development have started so called one-day plant clinics, which enable farmers to get a diagnosis for their pest-infested crops. The project is part of the Building Resilience to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme and helps farmers through the challenges of the current extended dry period in Burkina Faso and other African countries. In another BRACED project, implemented by Christian Aid more than 100 women receive nutritional awareness classes by volunteers from their own communities and learn how to prepare nutritional dishes in face of limited resources. For more information and to watch some videos on the issue please click here.
July 11, 2016
As the first of its kind in East Africa, a 8000 ha vegetable farm in Kenya, called Gorge Farm uses an anaerobic digester plant to produce energy from its crop residues and feeds surplus electricity into the grid. The power plant was developed by Tropical Power and is operated by an independent power producer. It has a capacity of 2.8 MW and a net output of 2.2 MW. With an investment of 6.5 million USD and less than a year of construction the project’s payback period is expected to be less than six years. Besides electricity the Gorge Farm Energy Park is also producing an organic fertilizer as a byproduct of the digestion process, which is recycled back into farming processes to support plant growth and health. Please click here for more information.
June 27, 2016
After Kaduna state in Nigeria has, in face of a pest in tomatoes, declared the state of emergency last month, a UK-based manufacturer seems to have found the cure. The so called ‘Tomato Ebola’ has spread to at least six states of Nigeria and has caused a loss of over 80% of the tomato yield in the country, plus a tremendous rise in tomato prices. The pest responsible for all the damage is the Tomato Leaf Miner (Tuta absoluta), a small moth from South America, which has a very fast life cycle and has developed resistance to pesticides. Rusell IPM, a pest management manufacturer seems to now have found a cure. By applying a solution, which recharges the soil with beneficial microorganisms the pest population can be controlled naturally. The solution proved being efficient in at least one farm in the Jos region of Nigeria and is currently extensively tested throughout Africa, the results of which will be presented at the Third All Africa Horticultural Congress in Nigeria in August this year. For more information please follow these links: (1), (2), (3).
June 7, 2016
Shocked by the amount of food going to waste in a friend’s shop, Caroline Pellegrini developed an app that informs consumers about offers on left-over food close to the end of a business day. While giving people the opportunity to save some money, the app also benefits stores in marketing their products. Furthermore the app helps to save the environment by reducing waste, which in turn saves energy, emissions and environmental pollution. The app is currently only available in Canada but promising to spread to other countries soon. For more information please visit the official Ubifood website here.
May 19, 2016
A company called Fluence Bioengineering, working on photobiology, has developed the world’s first broad spectrum lighting system for horticulture with a photon efficiency above 2.0 micromoles per joule (μmol/J). It is meant for greenhouses and other forms of indoor cultivation including vertical farming and will allow for increased crop yields, better use of space as well as better and faster physiological development of plants which allows for sooner harvesting. Fluence Bioengineering offers three series of this lighting system, all“ including space-saving form factors, passive thermal management and uniform photon distribution“. For more information click here.
May 11, 2016
An initiative by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) is distributing new pheromone traps to farmers. Through the use of liquid hydrolyzed protein bait solution combined with amines and organic acids fruit flies are attracted to the trap and drown in the liquid. To increase efficiency the trap especially targets females. Making for example mangoes unsuitable for European markets, the fruit flies are especially harmful for the horticultural sector in Kenya, which could double its annual revenues of 1 billion USD if fruit flies are controlled. For more information click here.
May 5, 2016
With a 1,200 sq m rooftop greenhouse supported by a hydroponic systsm on the floor below the UF002 De Schilde in the Hague is the biggest rooftop farm in Europe. After construction on top of an empty office building started in September last year the farm is ready to sell its first produce, including cucumbers, tomatoes, microgreens and tilapia fish next month. Eventually the farm is expected to supply 900 local families, restaurants and a school with regionally, sustainably grown, safe food. For more information please click here, or visit the official website.
April 27, 2016
During the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2016 annual meeting, Prof. Elizabeth Mitcham, Director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab and partner of GlobalHort was interviewed about a new cooling technology for horticulture produce in Cambodia. The resulting article about the so called CoolBot, a manipulated, conventional air-conditioning systems, which is capable of cooling down an insulated room to two degrees Celsius, was published in the Khmer Times. The idea of the CoolBot was originally developed in the USA but offers a comparably cheap alternative to expensive cooling systems in developing countries, such as Cambodia, which are in dire need to decrease post-harvest food loss. To read the article please follow this link.
March 24, 2016
Peter Ouma Okoth Aluoch, a Kenyan agripreneur has recently started a stall in his city to sell organic fruits and vegetables, which he produces on a sack-bag farm. In the long run the stall is to sell organic produce of over 200 farmers, while Peter wants to facilitate training in sack-bag gardening. He says the 50kg sacks can “carry up to 25 tomato seedlings until harvest”, require very little space compared to field farming, do not need chemicals, and have reduced water and labor requirements, which makes production possible even in drought conditions. The collaboration will enable farmers to be included in the value chain and provide them with a regular income. To read more about this project click here.
December 10, 2015
The Sky Urban Vertical farming System, developed by Jack Ng and his team of Sky Greens in Singapore, is the first vertical farming system that uses a metal structure in an “A” shape, which is powered by an hydraulic system. Despite its use of water for movement the system has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than traditional farming, which is why Jack Ng was honored with the INDEX award 2015. Please find more information here.
November 10, 2015
Researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and University of Florida (UF) are now investigating in sound waves as an alternative control method against the citrus psyllid, which causes the spread of Citrus Greening. Also known as Huanglongbing, this disease is one of the major problems in the history of citrus production worldwide. Due to the absence of effective treatments against this bacterial disease, control methods are focused on the vector. Richard Mankin and his team of researchers have developed an electronic device, which emits acoustic signals to disrupt the mating behavior of the citrus psyllid. Please find more information here.
September 22, 2015
Based on the greenhouse simulation model KASPRO a group of researchers of Wageningen University and partners from Taiwan addressed the question: "What is the optimum greenhouse design for vegetable growing in Taiwan?".
Due to the problem of protecting crops from pests and climatic events while maintaining a high production, the researchers aimed to find out, how to make greenhouse production more energy and water use efficient but also economically profitable.
Based on the computation of relevant heat and mass balances, KASPRO enables to obtain hourly estimates on temperature, relative humidity, crop growth, CO2 concentration and a number of other parameters.
The results can then, together with data from literature and the industry, be used for a cost-benefit analysis.
The study takes a close look at what effects certain equipment has, including ventilation and insect nets, greenhouse cover material and shading screens, adiabatic cooling, heating system and CO2 dosing, as well as a closed greenhouse.
Please find the outcomes of the study and more detailed information here.
September 18, 2015
In the framework of the HORTINLEA-project (Horticultural Innovation and Learning for Improved Livelihoods in East Africa) the Centre for Rural Development (SLE) analyses innovative processes in connection to the supply chain of African indigenous vegetables. SLE aims at creating a platform for exchange of information and knowledge between stakeholders like farmers, scientists, development organizations and politicians and gives advice for the development of context specific strategies in order to promote African indigenous vegetables. The project also aims deliberately at address politicians in Kenya to improve the framework conditions to allow for agricultural innovations.
Please find more information here.
September 18, 2015
The groundbreaking ceremony of UrbanFarmers’ 1,200m2 rooftop greenhouse in the Hague started September 14th. Set to be the largest commercial urban farm in Europe, construction is due to begin in September 2015 with completion in January 2016. The first fish and vegetables will be sold in April 2016. The urban farm will be the first project to be realized following the “Stadslandbouw Initiative” campaign by the Municipality of The Hague.
Please find more information here.
September 15, 2015
This article informs about an initiative of the National Youth Service (NYS), which promotes urban farming by a type of multi-storey gardening using sacks in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums.
Please find the article here.
New technologies that have been tested, adapted and promoted by Horticulture CRSP.
Please find the pdf here.
GlobalHort partner, Horticulture CRSP, has co-funded this project that studies low cost pest exclusion and microclimate modification technologies for small-scale vegetable growers in East and West Africa. A Tanzanian company, A to Z Textile Mills, member of a large consortium partners, is designing and manufacturing specific Agrinets so that farmers can use them to cover horticultural crops and prevent them from pest attacks. Agrinet technology is being monitored and evaluated to verify that changes brought by the nets over the vegetable crops are cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Please find more infromation here.
April 6, 2011
While postharvest losses in the U.S. are roughly 12%, it is estimated that these losses can be as high as 80% in many developing-world countries. For smallholder farmers eking out an existence on the tattered edges of our global economy, watching so much of their hard work spoil on the way to the paying consumer is particularly disheartening. Postharvest losses erode the farmgate value of their produce and reduce the amount of fruits and vegetables available to the surrounding populace, who typically suffer from high rates of micronutrient deficiency.
High temperatures are the main cause of postharvest loss in the developing world, and that makes postharvest cooling the most effective way of reducing losses. The need for temperature control is especially acute because ambient temperatures are often above 30°C, which can accelerate the deterioration rates of produce by a factor of twenty. However, cold storage can be prohibitively expensive. Conventional coolrooms and transportation systems employing mechanical refrigeration cost thousands of dollars and are very difficult to maintain in developing countries; unreliable electricity also thwarts cold storage possibilities. For resource-limited farmers, conventional coolrooms are economically and practically infeasible.
The Coolbot is the answer!
The Coolbot provides inexpensive cold storage to developing-world farmers. The Coolbot is a small black box that is wired into a standard air conditioner. It overrides the air conditioner’s temperature gauge and tricks it into working harder, thus turning an insulated room and an air conditioner into a coolroom. To prevent the fins from icing up and disrupting airflow, the Coolbot monitors the fin temperature and stops the compressor when ice builds up. The ice on the fins continues to cool the air until it melts and the compressor turns on again.
The Coolbot reduces the cost of cold storage from thousands of dollars to mere hundreds, making it a viable option for developing-world farmers.
Through USAID funding, Horticulture CRSP researchers investigated appropriate methods of delivering the Coolbot technology to farmers. They examined a range of locally available materials that can be used to insulate the coolrooms, including feathers, straw bales and shredded paper. They also evaluated the use of solar panels to power the system in order to solve the problem posed by unreliable electricity. Finally, the Horticulture CRSP researchers designed a passive transportation container that will keep produce cold during its journey to local markets. USAID funds enabled collaborating scientists from Uganda, India and Honduras to travel to California to work with UC Davis researchers on the Coolbot and postharvest issues. Three scientists, Julia Gomez, Gloria Androa, and Neeru Dubey, participated in the UC Davis postharvest short course and received training in Coolbot operation and coolroom construction. Julia Gomez returned to Honduras and began working with a women's cooperative that produces tropical flowers for export. The team identified a room at the packing station that was insulated and fitted with the Coolbot system. Neeru Dubey built a coolroom in India that employs a sandwich construction model with rice hulls as the insulating 'material' in the mud-brick sandwich. Gloria Androa and her local partners identified a site for the Coolbot in a village in Uganda and determined that papyrus, already used in domestic construction, is the best insulation material for their coolrooms. In Honduras, Uganda and India, the Coolbot is proving to be an effective means of bringing farmers together to reduce postharvest losses.
High temperatures are typical in most developing countries. Low temperatures are an elusive goal for the local farmers. This gulf between high and low temperatures in developing-world horticulture leads to high postharvest losses. As Julia, Gloria, and Neeru have demonstrated, the Coolbot bridges that gulf by providing farmers with inexpensive cold storage opportunities. The Coolbot is an excellent example of a leap-frog, sustainable technology that increases the profitability of smallholder farms and improves the lot of rural communities.Michael ReidPeter ShaplandMark Bell