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Wageningen Researchers, WiSensys Develop Greenhouse-Monitoring Solution

WiSensys is now marketing the new solution, known as AgriSensys, to track temperature and humidity levels at facilities where plants are grown.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 24, 2012German and Dutch greenhouses have become the proving ground for a new wireless tracking solution being tested by researchers at the Wageningen University & Research Center (WUR). The system, now commercially available, is designed to manage the climate throughout the facility where plants are grown.

Managing the climate within large commercial greenhouses can determine whether plants are productive or healthy, says Jos Balendonck, a researcher at theWageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture research institute. The major driver at Dutch greenhouses management, he explains, is to minimize energy input while preventing crop disease due to high humidity and local leaf wetness. Most commercial greenhouses have some kind of sensor to measure conditions inside the building throughout the day.

During testing, Wageningen UR researchers attached Wireless Value's RFID sensor tags to the support wires used to prop up growing plants.

Traditionally, Balendonck says, greenhouses employ wired temperature and humidity sensors that detect conditions within their vicinity and transmit that information to back-end software used to monitor greenhouses remotely. One problem with wired solutions, however, is that they can be expensive to buy and install. Therefore, few are typically used. But companies that grow large quantities of vegetables, fruits or ornamental plants within vast greenhouses, he says, can benefit from a more extensive view into the conditions that all of the plants experience—not just those closest to a wired sensor. If the entire climate throughout the building is not being measured, owners tend to overcompensate by controlling the environment in order to ensure that no area within the greenhouse falls outside of acceptable perimeters, without the owner actually knowing whether or not its efforts are successful.

WUR is dedicated to developing innovations for the horticultural industry, to improve product safety and increase productivity. The research institute has developed low-energy watering methods, dry-air distribution systems and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to cultivate tomatoes. Over the years, WUR has worked with a Dutch firm known as Wireless Value on projects funded by the Dutch Horticultural Product Board. These projects, called Smart Dust 1, 2 and 3, were tasked with developing systems to improve greenhouse health.

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