Theo Straathof observes that real innovation does not happen very quickly: ‘Innovative spraying technology is slowly trickling through to practice’

Interview by Jan van Staalduinen, Vakblad Onder Glas, April 2022

The importance of precise and efficient spraying is steadily increasing and growers seem to realize this more and more. This has not yet led to an enthusiastic embrace of innovative spraying techniques, notes Theo Straathof, manufacturer of spraying equipment. “New techniques that have proven their worth in recent years are only slowly trickling through to practice. It could be a little faster, because the bottlenecks are getting bigger.”

A few weeks ago, Greenhouse Horticulture Netherlands and Vertify organized two well-attended theme afternoons in the WHC about spraying technology. During a plenary session and a subsequent tour of presentations by advisors and manufacturers of spraying equipment and crop protection products, some 200 visitors were briefed on the importance of effective, sustainable crop protection and (new) opportunities to achieve improvements in both areas.

What next?
The contours of effective, sustainable crop protection have been known for years. These are robust cultivation systems with resilient plants, biological control and prevention (including hygiene, insect netting) as a foundation. This is followed by early identification of diseases and pests, timely intervention with carefully selected agents and additives. Furthermore, resistance management (alternating) and careful application with well-adjusted equipment; locally where possible, full fields when necessary. Sensors, decision support systems and autonomously operating, innovative equipment will increasingly facilitate the process.

First the low hanging fruit
This growing awareness has not yet led to a broad wave of innovation at company level, notes Theo Straathof of Micothon. Despite its modest size, the supplier of crop protection systems has made a name for itself as an innovator and early adopter of groundbreaking technology. Straathof: “When I look and listen around me, real innovation is not going very fast. It seems very likely that growers initially want to make better use of their existing equipment. There is much to be said for this, because with better adjusted equipment, both the effectiveness and efficiency of treatments can be improved. Many companies still have a world to gain from this. Companies where this low-hanging fruit has already been picked may now be ready for a new step.”

More than just spraying technology
Such a new step can be taken in several directions. Mobile spraying equipment that can operate even more economically, in a more targeted manner and/or more autonomously is one of them. You can also think of electrostatic spraying (mobile and in fixed cabins for roller tables), mobile UVC equipment and extraction systems to remove pest insects from crops. “It’s all proven technology that contributes to effective crop protection with lower resource consumption,” he says. “I suspect that many growers are quite enthusiastic about it, but are very cautious because of the many uncertainties they have been confronted with in recent years. That is understandable. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic about the implementation of new application techniques in the coming years. Hopefully, the investment climate will gradually pick up and we will be able to take new steps in the coming years with customization in application technology.”

Original Text: Jan van Staalduinen, Vakblad Onder Glas, 14th April 2022

Link to original article in Dutch Vakblad Onder Glas