PlantLab’s mission is thinking up and achieving sustainable and inspiring progress in the cultivation of crops. We actively involve all interests and stakeholders in an open process in order to use the powers of nature with all available technology and knowledge.
In collaboration with our business partners and consumers this creates special and varied projects and quality rich products. This means PlantLab ensures high quality plants, from production and from life.
See also: our principles
Our Plant Master Plan
This is in many aspects an integrated measuring, planning, dosing and implementing system for the growth of a crop. Our approach is unique in the world. It has many angles and cannot be explained in two sentences. We invite you to explore our total approach on this site the way you want to.
- Measuring is the detailed establishment of the true needs of a certain plant.
- Planning entails making a route plan for growing. Laid down for each plant in a Plant-ID
- Dosing and balancing the right amount of light, etc. With the objective of allowing ‘just-in-time assimilation’ to arise and hence making precisely the desired product.
- Implementing the most recent scientific knowledge in daily practice. The right plant at the right time.
The term Master refers to various forms of mastery:
- getting a grip on growth and quality through research
- the customer, who pulls the strings more than ever; we make this possible
- the plant indicating what it wants; we do not provide averages, we do not allow torrents of light and moisture; the environment is strictly controlled
- a master also understands the place in the greater whole: the social role and relevance of the total system
The integrated character of the system not only has to do with considering growth variables in their context but also integration of disciplines to achieve this as well as our offer to customers of basic research up to Research Units and large-scale turnkey Plant Production Units.
PlantLab in brief
Not a ray of sunlight will enter the greenhouse of the future if it is up to us. Sunlight will become LED light plus Infra Red. Plants will be given made-to-measure light, climate and nutrition. We will make the entire cultivation process more manageable and hence more profitable. This is a unique concept in the world.
We think it is the next logical step in the development of horticulture. A century ago crops went into a more protected environment in the greenhouse. Now protection is being increased using technology. In this closed off environment plants can develop better and the growth process can be managed better in a direction determined beforehand.
Production is increasingly going from ‘quality per square centimetre’ to ‘quality per cubic centimetre’. Growing crops will be intense. At the same time more and more flexibility will be demanded. This requires full use of the crop’s potential; what the plant has by nature. Our daily work mainly consists of discovering the possibilities of crops. We are looking for the optimum mix: can it be bigger, tastier, cheaper, prettier, faster, less perishable and more predictable? What nutritional value and harvesting periods does the client want at what time and where? In brief: can it be done differently? Can it be better? Can it be more sustainable? Can it be more profitable?
Previously research in this area took five or six years, now we are talking about months.
The students at Hogeschool HAS Den Bosch are the ‘Plantmanagers’ of the future.
Our system provides countless advantages: constant quality, no wasting of water and energy and because it can take place in several layers it also saves space. And we can now produce where we want irrespective of climatic conditions. That makes a great difference in transport of products around the world.
Precise climate control, custom-designed
In order to better use the potential of crops we design and build production rooms where the climate can be precisely controlled according to the wishes of the plant, the market and the customer.
We develop and deliver multilayer Plant Production Units, Research Units and plant knowledge for plant production and research objectives.
These climate rooms are fitted with one or more cultivation layers, varying in size from 1 m³ to thousands of cubic metres and are suitable for both research and production purposes.
We carry out research into the optimum growth circumstances for plant production. Each plant is then given its so-called Plant-ID.
We also supervise upscaling to multilayer Production Units where “custom-designed climate” can be produced.
Using the newest LED technology it is now possible to adjust the light composition and light intensity exactly to the needs of the crop. Room temperature, root temperature, air humidity, CO2, light intensity, light colour, air velocity, irrigation and nutritional value can all be separately and most accurately regulated. This is possible in several cultivation layers on top of one another.
Plant balance takes a central place
In our approach plant balance takes a central place. We do actually look at the plant literally as a pair of scales. On one side of the scales we calculate with the aid of the growth factors (light, CO2, water, nutrition and leaf area) how many grams of ‘sugar’ the plant can make. On the other side of the scales we calculate using the control factors (plant mass, sinks, temperature) how the plant can distribute these grams. By doing so we have made complex plant physiological knowledge practically applicable. Just as with an old fashioned pair of scales imbalance can be remedied in several ways: You can make the heavier weight lighter or the lighter weight heavier. Or a combination of both.
Controlling production and quality
Prior to cultivation we determine on what day we want to harvest, what the end product is going to look like, how it should taste, etc. Then we calculate when the cultivation should start and what settings we need to realise this. Once the cultivation formula has been developed it can be repeated all over the world, time after time and always with the same result.
Optimising the return
For each crop we determine the turnover, employment costs, sales costs and the total return. To do this we use advanced calculation models which go from plant to current account. We have turned ‘green fingers’ and cultivation based on feeling into plan-based working and process management. We always determine the most profitable strategy in advance.
The climate in Plant Production Units is no longer affected by sunlight, outside climate, day/night rhythms, weather or seasonal influences. This provides unique opportunities to control production, quality and harvesting time according to tight planning. Ideal for exact management of tissue cultivation, transition from vitro to vivo, plant growing, propagation, nursery cultivation and production of countless crops!
We can now gear the cultivation of crops, for example towards medicinal purposes and functional food.
We adjust the offer directly to the demand and can coordinate with promotions at retail level for example.
In traditional greenhouse cultivation it is practically impossible to meet tight deadlines. Sudden climatic changes often lead to undesired delays or acceleration meaning that the connection to the demand is lost. In Plant Production Units we control cultivation completely and can deliver the agreed quality at exactly the agreed time.
To prepare cultivation in multilayer Plant Production Units we develop a specific profile for each crop: the Plant-ID. This profile provides the plant specific ideal formula to manage a plant under completely controllable factors year-round, 24 hours per day based on the specifications determined beforehand.
This means the exact conversion is made to the required technology. Based on the information from the Plant-ID we determine what the ideal cultivation building and formula looks like.
In our current R&D facility in Den Bosch we can subject a plant simultaneously to 56 environment combinations. This makes it possible to obtain the desired Plant-ID in a very short period of time.
The Plant-ID forms the basis for the specifications to build a Plant Production Unit and the cultivation formula to be followed.
We provide an integrated approach on several aspects or: a total approach to crop growing. After all:
- we integrate on a larger scale than ever computer technology, plant physiology know-how, mathematical management models, light and photosynthesis know-how, economic know-how and measurement and control engineering.
- we offer our customers the entire spectrum of basic research into plant needs up to turnkey projects, implementation, technical after sales support, cultivation guidance, training and courses.
- in our models we integrate dozens of variables which until now were studied separately and we look for the optimum mix for a certain plant (“Plant-ID”).
- we look at the entire growth process “systematically”. We see the interaction of the plant with its environment as an inseparable whole.
- we look at our work from several levels at the same time. At the research and production level we see the plant as customer (what does it need exactly at what time?) but at the level of our final product we acknowledge various segmented target groups as a customer (what do they need?). We continually switch between these levels.
What are the results?
We have already seen many potential savings and values pass by in this introduction. Here are some of the most important again. With LED lighting we are using a sustainable form of lighting. By cultivating in layers we are saving a lot of space. It is technically possible to cultivate in five, ten or even twenty layers in a large hall. In a Plant Production Unit less evaporation is needed to cool the crop and all the water that the plant evaporates is collected and reused. This means we save 90% compared to traditional cultivation methods in greenhouses and open fields. For tomato cultivation in a greenhouse for example 1 cubic metre of water is needed per 70 kg of tomatoes. This is even 5 to 10 times as much for a kilogram of roses and pot plants. This sophisticated cultivation method will moreover provide mainly healthy plants, which makes a difference in the use of pesticides. Cultivation can also be speeded up. Halving the cultivation time is feasible and effective economically. We can guarantee the concentration of healthy components. We can provide identical crop performances anywhere in the world, even on industrial premises, or even in the desert. Production is possible anywhere where needed and where electricity can be created or supplied. We are going to grow local for local. This will save huge amounts on transport costs from producer to consumer.