Hy4Dense and Interreg
Hy4Dense: Hydroponics for Densely Growing Leafy Salad Crops

Our latest EU Interreg 2Seas project that began in 2019, Hy4Dense, will investigate new ways to optimise the growth and yield of densely sown leafy salad crops in hydroponics systems. Our research at NIAB will focus on the varietal growth performances of Rocket, Lamb's Lettuce and Baby Leaf Spinach using novel technological approaches, but with a strong emphasis on achieving this sustainably.

Despite more than 90% of greenhouse cultivation of fruit and vegetables having shifted to indoor hydroponics, no hydroponic systems exist for densely grown baby leaf salads. A key output, therefore, will be the development of a bespoke pilot hydroponic system at NIAB's Innovation Hub that demonstrates the benefits of growing leafy salad crops densely in horticulture indoors. The system will ensure environmentally and economically viable cultivation, by being sustainable for growers, and more aesthetically and hygienically acceptable to demanding consumers. The technology transfer output of the project will allow the uptake of densely hydroponics for baby leaf crops at the manufacturer and grower level. Other research areas of the project include optimising LED light recipes for these crops; cost analyses on production; and understanding supply chain inefficiencies.

This 3.5 year project will be the result of close collaboration between our research partners in the UK (Essex University), Belgium (INAGRO and Howest) and the Netherlands (Proeftuin Zwaagdijk). This partnership brings together diverse knowledge and expertise on the broadly similar challenges facing the leafy salad horticultural sector across the region, and strongly directs outcomes towards inclusive solutions to these challenges.

Soilless cultivation of lettuce anchored in a pond system floatSoilless cultivation of lettuce anchored in a pond system float

EU funded project, led by INAGRO Belgium