Strawberry growers are no strangers to the unpredictable nature of weather conditions that can jeopardize their crops. To counteract this, many are transitioning or have transitioned to indoor production, employing tunnels and gutters to safeguard their precious plants. In this evolving landscape, DGT by Senmatic, a Danish company renowned for its greenhouse technology expertise, has emerged as a partner for these growers. “Our systems provide feedback from the plants, enabling growers to improve and automate their irrigation based upon the plant’s needs. Growers want to step up their production, and one flower per plant extra results in many kilos per year”, shows Morten Hjorth.
“As a company, we often work inside greenhouses. Now, we see the opportunities for similar solutions being applied outside the greenhouse. We’ve talked to UK berry growers who wanted to step up the way they handle their production and, eventually, the yield. We collaborated closely with them to explore ways to achieve this goal”, says Morten.
The company’s expansion into the outdoor berry growing sector was driven by their vision to adapt greenhouse-based technologies for use in the open fields. Morten elaborates, “We recognized the growing demand among UK berry growers who were keen to elevate their production methods and subsequently increase yields.
One of DGT Senmatic’s innovations is the Decoder System, which combines technology with fertilizer control. The decoders facilitate seamless communication between the irrigation and fertilizer mixer and sensors deployed across fields or greenhouses. This real-time data exchange empowers growers to remotely control valve operations. Moreover, it offers a two-way communication channel that allows growers to receive performance feedback from the field: the software in the mixer will show what valve needs to be looked at, fixed, or replaced. “It saves growers time as they do no longer depend on visual inspection, and enables them to act up front, instead of acting only when the plant is already damaged – which, of course, is too late.”
An irrigation system can provide even more insights into what’s happening in the crop, and with the launch of SIIP (Senmatic Intelligent Irrigation Programme), these insights become within reach of growers. SIIP incorporates drain counters, sun sensors, moisture sensors, and optionally pH/EC sensors to gather comprehensive data on crop performance. With centralized control software, the SuperLink system orchestrates irrigation and fertigation based on this real-time information.
With the software in AMI Penta, the system organizes irrigation and fertilization based on this information in real-time.
“On a sunny day, the drain decreases, and the system will automatically add a new watering round. It’s not a question of what the grower has to do, but it’s based upon feedback from the actual crop. The EC sensor measures how much fertilizer is getting back from the system, telling of how the plant is doing, which automatically adjusts the EC level for the next watering round”, Morten gives as an example. “In the end, it’s about green fingers, but instead of having to look at the plants continuously, this brings the grower less work and more insights.”
These solutions are gaining traction from berry growers. Morten notes that the UK market, where strawberry consumption per capita is among the highest in the world, presented a prime opportunity for their technology, also thanks to their strong dealer network and the drive of growers to step up their game. Now, other regions follow. “Overall, many bigger producers of strawberries are moving into covered production to protect themselves from cold, or, in California, for example, from the heat. Tunnel production is a step in the evolving strawberry market, which brings further control over the crop within reach and enables growers to improve the working circumstances for their employees.”
“With systems like these, the growers can produce the same while using less water or even easily upscale their production without using more water. If a plant is watered correctly, it can easily produce one or two flowers more. It might not seem like a big deal, but on many hectares of cultivation, it makes a big difference.”