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Looking for new raw materials for growing media

July 16, 2023

To continue to be able to meet the growing demand for raw materials for substrate in the coming years, Kekkilä-BVB is busy developing new raw materials for growing media and subsequently new types of substrate. However, these projects can only succeed in collaboration with our customers. A new type of substrate can also require adjustments in cultivation. In this article, we look at how we search for the optimal balance between performance and sustainability through alternative raw materials with growers.

As you can read in this previously published article, peat is a trusted and well-known raw material in the tree nursery sector. Besides the fact that peat is versatile in use, it is also a relatively “forgiving” material. So when we look for alternatives for this raw material, we have to keep a close eye on whether plants continue to perform just as well. To be sure of this, cultivation control must be intensified and refined. What the best way to approach this is, and what the perfect “instructions for use” for new types of substrate are, we can only investigate together with the growers.

Cultivation trials with alternative raw materials

When we look for a new type of substrate together with our customers, we do this first of all based on our extensive lab knowledge and data. Our experts combine this with their own years of practical experience. We also take into account the experiences of the grower with whom we take on such a project. This already provides us with a good basis to ensure that such a trial runs smoothly. We know from experience, for example, that cultivation trials with alternative raw materials require a specific approach in the nursery. They shouldn’t just be mixed into the regular day-to-day cultivation processes. For example, it’s important to check whether the irrigation methods and the fertilization program need to be adjusted. This may be necessary if, for example, a new substrate dries faster or offers a smaller buffering effect.

In the tree nursery, slow-release/controlled-release fertilizers are typically used. That means that the impact of nitrogen fixation is not that large, but it is still something to take into account. So if you, as a grower, are interested in conducting cultivation trials with alternative growing media, be aware that this requires a tailor-made approach.

The urgency of the search for substrate raw materials

The covenant concluded in 2022 aimed at further accelerating the reduction of the environmental impact of potting soil and substrates and the predicted growth in demand over the coming years emphasizes the urgency of the search for suitable raw materials. Kekkilä-BVB is investigating numerous options and fortunately, there are several raw materials that are potentially suitable. These raw materials must be characterized by a reasonably constant availability and stable quality.

In addition, we are investigating options for reusing substrate safely and efficiently. An example of this is a pilot we are currently conducting with a strawberry grower in the Netherlands. At the end of the strawberry cultivation, we collect the used substrate. After extensive analysis and processing, this material can again be used as a raw material in the retail sector. We are currently also investigating possibilities for reuse in the tree nursery.

In this video, we talk to the strawberry grower in question and you hear more about this unique project.
For more information about our shared search for new raw materials for substrate, do not hesitate to contact our experts.