Research into new photosynthesis technology

HortiMaX has joined forces with Wageningen University, Phenovation and other parties to conduct research into a revolutionary new technology based on the fluorescence principle. This involves the use of thousands of tiny measuring spots. The research will take some time to complete, but HortiMaX has already developed technology that lets growers benefit from photosynthesis processes.

Monitoring photosynthesis with a climate control computer
Today’s process computers can control every greenhouse process affecting plant health and growth. They carefully monitor and fine-tune the light quantity, irrigation, fertilization, CO2, temperature and humidity level. The basis for all plant growth is photosynthesis. It would, therefore, make sense to control the greenhouse environment in such a way to maximize photosynthesis. This, however, isn't possible yet because we’re unable to measure the rate of photosynthesis from one moment to the next and determine how high it could have been. Scientists from universities all over the world have been looking for this holy grail for decades: a sensor that provides a reliable and representative measurement of how much light plants are assimilating.

Photosynthesis at leaf level
Up to now, various methods have been developed to measure certain stages of the assimilation process. Most of these methods use so-called cuvette measurements. The CO2 uptake of a leaf is measured in a cuvette and this value is then used to calculate the crop’s photosynthesis. Although this is an accurate way of measuring photosynthesis, it's not very practical.  A much more practical method is the fluorescence measurement, which nurseries have been using for some time now. It involves measuring the number of light particles absorbed by a plant based on the changes in fluorescence intensity after applying a short light pulse. This is a tried-and-tested technology, but not without its downsides.

Common criticisms of the fluorescence measurement are that it only measures a small, non-representative spot and that the sensors also need the user’s constant supervision. What's more, the interpretation of the measurement data is always subjective and there's always the risk of the data being misinterpreted, leaving aside measurement errors. The problem with current measuring methods is that they only measure a very small part of a single plant and not the crop as a whole.

Photosynthesis at crop level
HortiMaX is currently working together with Wageningen University, Phenovation and other parties to conduct research into a revolutionary new technology. This technology measures photosynthesis based on the fluorescence principle, but instead of using one small measuring spot, thousands of tiny measuring spots are used. This provides a comprehensive picture of the whole crop, thus making it a representative measurement. The technology can cover a surface area of 3 by 3 metres. Thanks to the reliable measurement principle with a laser, the measuring equipment is extremely accurate and requires little user supervision. There is also no contact with the leaves, so the measurement doesn't affect the plants (as is the case with other methods).

PhenoVation figure

Photosynthesis measurements as a basis for decisions
It will probably take years, however, before the measurement technology is sufficiently reliable and our understanding of it has reached the stage to allow automated control based on photosynthesis.  HortiMaX has invested significantly in the development of photosynthesis technology over the past few years. By displaying the photosynthesis measurements on the process computer, growers can analyse and interpret the data. This provides growers with a greater understanding of the processes that are most essential to them.  Growers can learn from the data and make better decisions. It’s precisely this understanding that lets them fine-tune the settings on their HortiMaX computer and achieve even better results.

Follow the project's progress at

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20-22 February
Gorinchem, The Netherlands

Shouguang Veg. Expo
20-22 March
Shouguang, China

9-11 May 2018, Booth #1342
Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA

Hortiflorexpo IPM
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