With global controlled environment production expanding significantly and peat-use removal accelerating, it is clear that more needs to be done to provide growers with a reliable, sustainable and good quality substrate that will also help them meet the challenge of net zero.
Any proposed novel substrates need to provide robust evidence that they can be reliably used for high quality performance and meet growers specifications, that they have been responsibly sourced and manufactured, as well as critically competing on price.
CHAP is in discussion with UK Industry leaders to advance innovative solutions and disruptive technologies and help bring suitable sustainable alternatives to the sector.
In a recent survey aimed at better understanding growing media (substrate) use across the UK CEA horticulture sector, we approached commercial growers and asked them about the most important factors for their particular growing operation. A few disclosed using novel substrates: some organic-based, such as products made from jute fibres; recycled wool fibres; hemp fibres; or paper pulp waste, and some inorganic-based such as products made from polymer foams or resins (some derived from recycled organic waste.) Most were chosen for their characteristics such as enabling uniformity across batches and water-holding capacity. Recyclability / biodegradability was also a factor deemed important by growers.
Here I consider two disruptive innovations that could be game-changers for the industry: reliable and sustainable Sphagnum moss production and novel polymer-based substrates.