This year's Horti Fair Innovation Award went to two Dutch firms that collaborated on a real-time sensor of glasshouse air impurities.
Air Monitor was invented by Environmental Monitoring Systems (EMS) founder Jan-Kees Boerman. He told Grower: "Both NOx and ethylene affect photosynthesis and so plant growth.
"With ethylene, you always discover its effects too late. It could be cutting 10 per cent off your production and you can't see it. This forewarns you, even though the values are so low - we're talking parts per billion."
Explaining how results from the monitor might be put to use, he said: "A short peak is not necessarily bad. Risk is the product of level and time, which the software calculates. The next step is to choose which air source to restrict - you have to make a balanced decision between clean air and cost. You may need to change your air intake, maybe even have a taller chimney."
He added: "The levels we detected on the first trials were unbelievable, even for us." Although priced at EUR22,000 excluding installation, he said: "We have customers who say it's already paid for itself. It's that or install a EUR200,000 laboratory and hire a lab technician."
Kees van Paassen, sales manager at EMS partner Sercom, explained that the firm's involvement grew out of its work in bulb storage, where air purity is critical. The product will raise growers' awareness of external impurity sources, he added.
"It might be from car pollution - when that's high, you might want to close the vents. We also have growers who are in discussion with Schiphol Airport. They are trying to prove that the aeroplanes affect air quality and so damage crops."
Press Award - Semi-closed glasshouses
The Press Award at Horti Fair went to a consortium of firms developing the "next generation" of semi-closed glasshouse technology.
Nine members of Dutch glasshouse installation industry body AVAG and research body Wageningen UR began working together on a commercial trial at tomato grower Lans this year.
They aim to demonstrate savings of up to 10cu m of natural gas per square metre per year.