Industry representative: Graham Whitehead, Whiteheads of Boston
AHDB Horticulture cost: £8,600
A group of UK cut flower growers have for some time been investigating the possibility of developing hydroponic systems for producing cut flowers that are currently grown in the soil e.g. column stocks and a review of the current knowledge of hydroponics on cut flowers was commissioned (PO 018) to identify exisiting information that could support this development followed up be a a visit by the cut flower growers to look at solution hydroponic systems for lettuce and herbs.
The outcome of this work is that the growers have decided that deep pool solution hydroponics is the main system that needs to be further investigated for their businesses, some smaller scale substrate based systems have already been inverstigated independelty by some of the growers associated with this new proposal. It has become apparent that there is minimal knowledge in the use of such systems on cut flowers and this feasibility study aims to build on information that has been accessed, e.g. on general nutrient requirements for flowers in hydroponics and by extrapolation from systems already developed by lettuce growers.
J A Collison and Sons have already commissioned an experimental deep pool system (measuring 4m x 8m) which they are prepared to make available to the wider industry providing HDC funds are available for adequate revenue funding towards managing the project in 2015. It is proposed to use this facility to investigate the basic production requirements for deep pool systems.
This project is grower driven and will be managed by a management group comprised of J A Collison and Sons, Lambs Flowers and Whiteheads of Boston. They will determine the direction of the project and will be responsible for ensuring that HDC levy payers obtain the maximum benefits from the project in year one.
KT activities will include articles in the trade press and HDC News, an open day incorporated with the 2015 CFC open day and a stand alone event probably in late September or mid September, informal "grower walk" type events, snippets on the CFC blog and a final formal HDC report.
The overall benefits to the industry will be a cost effective assessment of a cut flower deep pool hydroponics system which will provide sound baseline data to determine the future direction of any additional trials work. The actual costings of a commercial system will be considered as part of the project but too much detail may not be possible in year 1.
Aims and objectives:
The aim of the project is to assess the potential of deep pool hydroponics for the production of cut flowers. This will be achieved by the development of a proactive grower based and grower led trial.
1. To determine which commercial cut flower crops can be grown in a deep pool hydroponics system.
2. To determine the most appropriate tray design for the production of cut flower crops including size of propagation module and nature of air gap between the tray and the water.
3. To determine the most appropriate "recipe" for the cut flowers grown.
4. To determine the need for crop supports and if required, to suggest possible solutions.
5. To us the information of the year 1 trials to determine the future direction of any additional work required and possibly look at drawing in other funding eg Agritech.
It is important to appreciate that this trial will determine baseline information for the production in deep pool hydroponics and as such the objectives above could change if other issues become apparent during the year. All of the objectives are linked and each one could have implications for the others.