By: Amelia Oei 22 Feb, 2019

Plant-e presented the most promising innovation for sustainable farming during Rotterdam Unlocked 2019. This start-up has developed a system in which crops generate electricity, and methane emissions are significantly reduced at the same time. Plant-e was one of the start-ups that participated in the LTO Noord challenge on 19 February, aimed at combating soil subsidence in peat meadow areas. The other start-ups were Computomics, Odd.bott, Hexagro Urban Farming, Campus Almkerk and Field Factors. This challenge was part of Rotterdam Unlocked, which was organised in the Rotterdam Region from 18 to 20 February inclusive, by Get in the Ring, Rotterdam Partners and the Municipality of Rotterdam.

Plant-e offers greatest potential for pilot

Andries Middag, Manager Regio West at LTO Noord, looks back positively on the day, which provided plenty of inspiration. “The innovation of Plant-e offers the greatest potential for a pilot. In the coming weeks, we will examine whether we can compile a business case for the short-term with Plant-e”, reveals Middag enthusiastically. Plant-e has devised a system in which plants generate electricity and simultaneously reduce methane emissions. With Plant Microbial Fuel Cell (P-MFC) technology electrons can be used as electricity. These electrons are released during the process in which plants decompose. This system works in wet conditions, which means soil subsidence as well as CO2 emissions can be reduced.

Plant-e sustainable farming

Long-term innovations

All six of the start-ups present have inspiring solutions for sustainable farming.
In the long term, Computomics sees the possibility of developing non-genetically modified crops for wet cultivation. A start-up from Milan, Hexagro Urban Farming, provides modular vertical farming for urban areas and greenhouses. The Field Factors start-up has developed a water-purification technique that has been tried and tested in an urban area and that could be interesting for rural areas in the long term. The ‘Wheed Whacker’ by Odd.bott offers optimal crop processing. This robot exerts less pressure on the soil than heavy agricultural machinery, reducing soil subsidence. “Robotisation offers incredible potential”, Middag explains. “However, the robot will have to be further developed to make it suitable for peat meadow areas, where conditions in the field are variable and hard to predict. This also applies to the robotisation and automation solutions offered by Campus Almkerk. We are truly inspired by the alternative approach to the food system and definitely see opportunities in the medium term,” claims Middag.

'The innovation by Plant-e offers the greatest potential for a pilot for combating soil subsidence. We hope to put together a business case in the short term.'

Andries Middag Manager Region West, LTO Noord

Innovative techniques to combat soil subsidence

Soil subsidence is an ever-growing problem for farmers in Regio West. LTO Noord’s ambition is to reduce soil subsidence in peat meadow areas by at least 50% by 2050, using innovative techniques. “It concerns around 100,000 hectares of western peat meadows”, says Aad Straathof, Peat Meadow Theme Holder Regio West at LTO Noord. Being the administrative contact for farmers, science and policy, Straathof is committed to sustainable farming and the challenge to combat soil subsidence. “For this purpose we already use techniques such as underwater drainage and level-controlled drainage. We hope to be able to develop more innovative techniques with start-ups,” says Straathof.

About Rotterdam Unlocked

The initiative Rotterdam Unlocked aims to stimulate innovation between new entrepreneurs, the business community and the authorities. Solutions can be tested and scaled up through joint innovation. From 18 to 20 February inclusive, these parties held discussions on specific innovation challenges and the potential of jointly testing the solutions on offer. Rotterdam Unlocked was organised by Get in the Ring, Rotterdam Partners and the Municipality of Rotterdam.

About LTO Noord

LTO Noord is the association of and for agricultural entrepreneurs in the nine provinces above the Maas. It is an active association that jointly develops and innovates alongside agricultural entrepreneurs. Being a representative of the agricultural sector, LTO Noord serves as the link between its members, the authorities, society and the business community.