NL: Biodiversity with ‘ecological rafts’

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On May 27, a study by the Fieldlab voor Biodiversiteit en waterkwaliteit (a fieldlab on biodiversity and water quality) has started. In the pond in front of succulent nursery Ovata in Bleiswijk (the Netherlands), so-called ecological rafts were launched. In the coming months, students from Lentiz | MBO Oostland will explore how the rafts impact the biodiversity in and around the pond. Additionally, water quality measurements will be conducted. The project is an initiative of the Dutch Foundation for Innovation in Greenhouse Horticulture, and Practoraat Circulaire Tuinbouw (practorate for circulair horticulture).

In this project, entrepreneurs, researchers, and educators collaborate together as the Fieldlab voor Biodiversiteit en waterkwaliteit. Through this collaboration, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to innovate on the basis of research findings. And students get the chance to experiment.The research focuses not only on biodiversity in and around the greenhouse but also on the combination of biodiversity and surface water quality.

Aquatic biodiversity
The ecological rafts, made from recycled materials and planted with native flowering plants, aim to attract a diversity of insects. This promotes biodiversity in and around open water, an approach known as ‘aquatic biodiversity.’ The rafts also positively impact water quality by absorbing nutrients and chemicals, benefiting aquatic life.

A few years ago, SIGN initiated the development of ecological rafts in collaboration with Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and Waterschap Vallei en Veluwe (a Dutch water authority). Experience with eco-rafts has also been gained in the Dutch municipalities of Alphen aan den Rijn and Steenbergen. These experiences are now being applied in a greenhouse environment.

Education, research, and entrepreneurship
In the current project, education, research, and the business sector are collaborating. Students from Lentiz | MBO Oostland created the rafts in the SIGN Living Lab at the Bleiswijk location. They will scout the effects on biodiversity. The raft design was realized by SIGN after consultation with Utrecht University, WUR, and consultant LeAF. An insect hotel made from rose waste streams will also be introduced. Succulent nursery Ovata in Bleiswijk allowed their pond to be used for research. Both the students and the high water the hoogheemraadschap van Schieland en de Krimpenerwaard (a reginal Dutch water authority) will monitor the water quality.

First rafts launched
The rafts launched at Ovata will float in the pond in front of the company until at least next year. SIGN and partners anticipate that other entrepreneurs in the region will also start using the rafts. To this end, SIGN for instance collaborates with Lentiz | MBO Oostland, WUR, Glastuinbouw Nederland, and Greenport West-Holland.

Learning and experimenting
The rafts are expected to have a positive effect on biodiversity, thanks to the variety of native plants and the attraction of natural enemies of pest insects from greenhouse crops. Other potential effects include improved water quality and a positive impact on the value of surrounding greenhouse horticulture.

However, the most important aspect of the project is the connection between innovation, education, research, and entrepreneurs. For SIGN, the project with the rafts is primarily about collectively experimenting and learning about biodiversity and water quality themes. Thus, this is not only a study on ‘aquatic biodiversity’ and water quality but also on how students, companies, and partners like water boards can innovate and learn together.

For more information:
Dutch Foundation for Innovation in Greenhouse Horticulture
Tel.: +31 (0)85 003 64 00
[email protected]

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