A few years ago, some strawberry producers from Huelva, Spain’s main strawberry producing region, approached New Growing System looking for solutions. With the help of New Growing System, they first moved from traditional, strawberry cultivation in soil to NGS-berry, the name of our hydroponics product line for berries. That helped them to optimize production and maximize profit. But now the challenge was different. They felt they had already maxed out production in the international arena against labor-intensive competitors from developing countries, so they needed to innovate, hence planting the seed for the development of our rotational system.
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Based on these premises, New Growing System began working on a system which needed to be cost-effective, ergonomic in terms of plantation and harvesting, and most importantly, had to allow farmers to increase production within existing facilities. After playing around with some initial concepts, we came up with the idea of having two trays, one on top and the other on the bottom that would rotate. During the three years of development and testing, a number of innovations were integrated into the rotational system. One of these innovations was a solar tracker, installed in the system to ensure optimized solar radiation of all strawberry trays, which tilt depending on the sun’s position to fully capture sunrays.
As a farmer and investor, you are probably wondering about costs and payback periods. So do we, which is why throughout this process one of our premises was to ensure easy installation and maintenance of the system, which would also need to yield excellent crop performance. Compared to a traditional strawberry hydroponics system, NGS-berry rotational increases production two-fold, and if the comparison is made with traditional strawberry soil cultivation, we are talking about a yield which is approximately 70 to 80% higher because in addition to all the benefits of hydroponics, trails for displacement of heavy machinery (e.g. tractors) is no longer needed. Despite this remarkable performance, our appetite to innovate is not satisfied, which is why we are now testing an automated harvesting process together with one of our collaborators. This robotized system would work 24/7, 12 months a year, thus increasing the number of options for farmers and investors. Simply unbeatable.
As for harvesting practices themselves, the rotational system offers the same advantages of traditional hydroponics in terms of ergonomics. That means that the processes of both planting and harvesting can be carried out much easier and therefore efficiently. We have constant interaction with large strawberry producers who purchased our rotational NGS-berry in Spain, United Kingdom, Portugal and the USA and they all tell us how pleased they are with this product, both in terms of profitability but also of improved labor conditions and food safety and hygiene. Based on our experience marketing these products, we are now looking to further expand in these markets but also to open new possibilities in destinations such as Korea, Japan, Russia, France and Australia, to name a few !
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