In Greece, the off-season production of products in greenhouses is one of the most important agricultural activities, as is the case in almost all countries of the Mediterranean basin. However, competition with both the countries of Northern Europe and the countries of the Mediterranean basin is particularly fierce. At the same time, the average technological level of Greek greenhouses lags behind that of most competing countries, resulting in the presence of Greek greenhouse products in international markets being inferior to the country’s natural capabilities.
At international level, modern greenhouses place particular emphasis on improving the quality of the products produced and increasing production. However, this requires the use of new technologies, the application of which leads to greenhouses that are friendlier to the environment and less energy-intensive.
In the context of this project, it is proposed to coat the greenhouse shell (plastic sheets or glass) with innovative materials that enhance the light intensity at selected wavelengths that the plant uses to photosynthesize, converting for this purpose either ultraviolet light or wavelengths that are not exploited by plants.
This technique aims, on the one hand, to increase production due to an increase in photosynthetically active solar radiation, which will be more evident during the winter months, but also to increase the quality of plants by rejecting harmful ultraviolet radiation. The study is being piloted in the cultivation of lettuce in a greenhouse of the A.C. of Bioproducers of Western Greece, which will have the innovative coating, but also in a conventional greenhouse for comparison purposes in order to study the effect of new materials on the growth of the plant and the increase of production per growing season.
Goal of Innogrowth
The main priority of the project is to achieve effective utilization of solar radiation for plant growth through the innovation of solar concentrators. In particular, solar radiation concentrators are considered to be small pigment molecules or rare earth complexes with intense light emission in the visible part of solar radiation originally proposed to enhance light in silicon photovoltaic cells and thus increase its efficiency.
The ultimate goal of this project is the creation of an innovative greenhouse that will incorporate innovative cutting-edge technology and will aim to improve the production of vegetables (lettuce) as an indicative cultivation plant of wide application in Greece. At the same time, the possibility of transferring know-how from the results of the project after their evaluation in wide application in installed greenhouses according to the requirements of the conditions in Greece will be examined.
The project team works collaboratively on the application of the innovative technology of spectral concentrators on a greenhouse surface, while the cultivation, growth of the plant and the general quality of the product are monitored throughout the cultivation period to achieve the maximum result always compared to the cultivation of the same plant in a conventional greenhouse.
The project team consists of two research institutions and the A.S.Bioproducers of Western Greece. Analytically:
The laboratory of “Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology” of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of the University of Peloponnese (Coordinating Body), which has undertaken the synthesis of the new solar radiation concentrators and their effective and uniform coating in the greenhouses they will use for the proposed cultivation.
The quality of the coatings and their durability over time will be monitored throughout the project to ensure maximum effect and avoid failures.
- The “Laboratory of Plant Physiology & Nutrition” of the Department of Agriculture of the University of Patras has undertaken the monitoring of all stages of plant growth (lettuce) from the time of cultivation to collection. In particular, qualitative and quantitative indicators for the intensity of photosynthetic radiation reaching plants, monitoring of chlorophyll values, physiological and morphological parameters, as well as qualitative-organoleptic indicators, such as nitrate concentration and total antioxidant load, are monitored throughout the cultivation.
- The “Agricultural Cooperative of Organic Producers of Western Greece” has constructed in Messolonghi, the two greenhouses, one of which bears the active coating and is responsible for the crops. Upon completion of the project, it will evaluate the quality of the final product compared to the quality of the products offered to the market by the Cooperative.