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Grower Van Schie from Honselersdijk investigated in a pilot how potted lilies respond to LED lighting. They did so together with LED specialist Legdnd and technology company Vivent. The latter used biosensors to measure the real-time plant reaction of the potted lily to the ‘colder’ LED light. The pilot received a donation of 25,000 euros from the Rabo Impact Fund.

Scale-up Vivent uses ECG technology to measure stress in plants. “That’s the same technique cardiologists use to take videos of the heart. But we do it with plants,” explains commercial director Carl Rentes. “Plants pick up signals from their environment, such as temperature, light, and water. Vivent can measure these signals with biosensors and see if this causes plant stress. Until now, growers and horticulturalists could only observe plants from outside. So this is a big step for the agri-food sector.”

By the looks of it, the entrepreneurs are happy with the Rabo Impact Fund.

Equal light hours

Van Schie was keen to switch to LED lighting to save energy costs and to become more sustainable. But the switch to LED was not to result in a loss of quality. During the pilot, the grower got feedback from the plant itself. “Among other things, we investigated how long the potted lily had to stand under the LED lights,” Carl explains. “Ordinary lighting gives off more heat than LED. Therefore, we thought the plant would need more LED hours. But the potted lily did just as well with fewer hours. We also saw an improvement in the quality. A great result. So Van Schie can grow much more energy-efficiently with LED.”

Profit for nature

Vivent has been working on the technology with biosensors since 2012. The originally Swiss company set foot in the Netherlands in 2019. Carl: “Here, we focus mainly on greenhouse horticulture, a large sector in the Netherlands with a lot of potential for sustainability. In Fieldlab Tomatoworld, we do practical research together with other companies. We are also affiliated with the innovation platform HortiHeroes, and have close contact with Wageningen University.”

Abroad, Vivent focuses mainly on outdoor agrifood. “There is much less greenhouse growing there,” says Carl, “but our biosensors pick up every plant reaction, whether it comes from light, climate, pesticides, or biostimulants – products that increase plant resistance. As a result, our technology helps growers, horticulturists, and suppliers of horticulture make very targeted choices. For example, when they use biostimulants. With plant feedback, we see how a biostimulant is active in the plant. A big win for more sustainable agriculture and horticulture and for nature.”

Power of co-creation

To further develop their sensors, Vivent received 25,000 euros from the Rabo Impact Fund. “We like to support smart solutions like those of plant whisperer Vivent,” says Gerben Dijksterhuis, startup & scale-up banker at Rabobank. “By looking ín the plant, Vivent gathers valuable information for the grower. The latter can then take action. For example, by giving different nutrition or adjusting the climate in the greenhouse – whatever the plant needs.”

Leon Veenhuijzen is a member of Rabobank’s Sustainable Business Advisory Board. They assess the applications that come into the Rabo Impact Fund. “At first, I was a bit skeptical about Vivent’s application. Making an ECG of a plant – as a layman, I could hardly imagine it. But I was convinced when I saw Van Schie gloating about the effect of the technology and the savings it brings. You wish that to all growers and horticulturalists.”

The donation from the Rabo Impact Fund covers part of the costs of the pilot with Van Schie and Ledgnd. The rest the three put in themselves. “The donation means a lot to us,” says Carl. “Vivent has been working on this technology for years, and for a year and a half, we have been able to deploy it commercially. The donation is a recognition of our technology and the power of co-creation.”