When Bas Dirven, manager of R&D at Meteor Systems, walked past pots of herbs in the supermarket about seven years ago, it didn't exactly make him happy. "The quality was so poor that I didn't understand why they dared to sell it like that," he said. There had to be room for improvement, Bas thought. Add to that the increasing substrate shortages, and you will have to look for a solution without potting soil.
So, a solution using only water and nutrients was developed and patented. "Inside that pot, which can be made of plastic or paper, is a plant holder that had to have a fit with a cultivation system, which, of course, we didn't have at the time."
Peter Lexmond and Bas Dirven
From seed to window sill
The system developed by Meteor now makes it possible to grow those 'supermarket herbs' from seed to windowsill - but the system is also suitable for growing lettuce, flowers, and plants. "You actually grow on the lid of the container," Bas explains. "That way, from the cultivation system, the plant can go straight onto the packaging and to the shop."
That system started with the invention of a new type of cultivation rack; then, the floats were developed. "We could then supply a complete system for ponds, but we did not yet have something for the tables, for the roller container systems."
The system with the 'lid' is also suitable for automated cultivation systems. "A transplanter supplier can take the plant holder under the rim and click it onto the lid."
The substrate fits into the grey plant holder. The plant holder is clicked onto the lid to later fit in its entirety onto the water-filled pot.
Back to substrate - as already mentioned, shortages and concerns around sustainability lead to a search for alternatives to traditional substrate. In Meteor's system, they have therefore opted for a 'mat' on which the plants are grown.
"I actually see it as a kind of 'seed pad,'" says Bas. "You often see growers already making the step from potting soil to an alternative substrate, but with this, you, therefore, have a seed pad that already contains the seed. You just have to get it wet, put it in the tray, into the system, and into your growing system." The material of the 'mat' can still go either way - the focus at Meteor Systems has so far been mainly on developing the plant holder.
No more water
The plant holder system is also a godsend for supermarkets, who have responded enthusiastically to the invention. "Unlike the pots with potting soil, you don't risk anything ending up in the customer's shopping bag with this. If the lid is on the pot properly, no water will come out." And another advantage the supermarket no longer needs to water while the pots are on the shelf.
Even in the consumer's home, the system allows the plant to last a lot longer. "A lot of water remains in the root system, so the plant can last up to three months. This allows the consumer to cut off some leaves all the time."