Research meets innovator 2024
Vegetables Soft fruits Innovator

Research Meets Innovator: Showcasing breakthroughs in horticulture

Author: Rachel Anderson
Monday, 24 June 2024
Research Meets Innovator event highlights how trialling, testing, and information sharing are at the heart of successful innovation.

The kind of technological breakthroughs that can be achieved when new innovations are meticulously researched and trialled were highlighted during GreenTech’s Research Meets Innovator networking event.

Research Meets Innovator took place at GreenTech Amsterdam on the afternoon of Wednesday June 12 (2024) and saw representatives from four companies discuss and raise awareness of their new, and potentially ground-breaking innovations – each of which has been rigorously trialled and tested by researchers and/or growers.

As the event’s moderator Peter Klapwijk, consultant at 2HARVEST, said: “Successful innovations never become a success because of just one person. They start with a technical finding, then you bring it into practice. In order to use it, you have to adapt it and find the right implementation, and then its successful.”

The companies that pitched their innovations in front of the Research Meets Innovator delegates – which included innovators, researchers, growers, consultants, and potential investors – were Skytree, Bogaerts Greenhouse Logistics, VitalFluid, and MechaTronix.

Content board members are Roel Vanderbruggen (Proefcentrum Hoogstraten), Lien Bosmans (Proefcentrum Hoogstraten), Felix Tarrats (CEICKOR University), Els Berckmoes (Proefstation voor de Groenteteelt), Rik Cleymans (Proefstation voor de Groenteteelt), Mariska Dreschler (GreenTech), Monique van Wordragen (Wageningen University & Research).


Skytree develops and manufactures decentralized direct air capture (D-DAC) machines that deliver onsite CO2 generation from ambient air. This enables indoor/vertical farms and greenhouses to secure a stable, sustainable (fossil-fuel free) supply of CO2 and reduce costs.
The firm’s Chief Technology Officer Wojciech Glazek noted that the whole team at Skytree work together to try and solve problems as quickly as possible. To that end, the product (a version of which is already available on the market) is rapidly improving. In Quarter (Q)3, 2022, its prototype machine produced one kilogram of CO2 per day and this year (2024) tests are being run on a machine named Skytree Stratus that impressively produces up to 1000kg per day.

Glazek said: “How do we approach innovation? What is important is the culture in the company … that creating mistakes is okay, and that we all take responsibility for solving technical problems – it’s not one person that is left alone to solve a problem because, actually, the whole team trying to solve problems as quickly as possible.”

Bogaerts Greenhouse Logistics

Years of cooperation between the manufacturing firm Bogaerts Greenhouse Logistics (which specialises in logistics solutions for greenhouses), researchers from Hoogstraten, and growers has led to the creation of an autonomous driving machine, Qii-Drive Shift UV-C, that carries out UV-C treatment on crops. To that end, a light recipe has been successfully developed that prevents mildew from spawning on strawberries. Helpfully, this reduces the need for chemicals to be applied to this crop. Its modular design means that the machine fits into every greenhouse and is easy to install.


VitalFluid cleverly creates “lightning in a box” by using air, water, and electricity to create plasma-activated water (PAW). This PAW has temporary disinfecting properties and, as trials have demonstrated, it has several benefits, said the firm’s Sales Manager Mark van Boxtel. When the PAW is sprayed onto crops, it can help get rid of all kinds of pathogens, including mildew. It can also serve as an effective post-harvest treatment before packaging, and it can be used as an effective seed treatment get rid of the pathogens on the seeds “so you have a good germination and clean seeds.”

van Boxtel pointed out to delegates that VitalFluid and UV-C could together provide a 100% effective alternative to chemicals that treat powdery mildew.


Koen Vangorp, CEO at LED lighting specialist MechaTronix, was pleased to share that the company, together with Belgian retailer the Colruyt Group, has made a breakthough in LED lighting technology for vertical farming. They have developed a technique that hazes the lights in an artificial farm using indirect lighting. This, said Vangorp, means the “light is everywhere” and can penetrate hard-to-reach parts of the plant. Trials have so far shown that this hazing technique increased plant density in strawberry plants by more than 30 per cent and production by 38 per cent. In basil crops, the plants’ fresh weight increased by 55 per cent. Vangorp asserted that this technological breakthrough could help make vertical farming a more viable business prospect as it is known to have high capital and operating expenditures.

The importance of information sharing

Following the presentations, delegates took part in round-table discussions to discuss the possible ways in which research and innovation for sustainable horticulture development can be improved. They then shared their findings with the other groups.

Jacqueline van Oosten of Wageningen University concluded that legislation is an important obstacle that can hamper the implementation of research and innovation into practice. For example, in Europe it can take ten years for new crop protection solutions to be approved by legislators.

She also highlighted that research and development can be better brought to the end user through the use of online information platforms that facilitate networking. Delegates also emphasised the importance of information sessions such as GreenTech’s Research Meets Innovator.

Grower Felix Tarrats, CEO of CEICKOR University and a grower in Mexico , noted that horticulture research where he is based in Mexico tends to be carried out by the private sector and so “coming to this roundtable and to GreenTech is very important so that we can meet all of you.”

The possibility of creating a larger Research Meets Innovator session in future – one that connects innovators with funding opportunities through “Dragon’s Den”-style pitches and networking – was also suggested by delegates.