Drones and Satellites for Growers in the Dune and Flowerbulb Region

The European Commission wants to drastically reduce the use of plant protection products in agriculture. Much of the current range of products will disappear, including those currently considered indispensable by many growers. To find a solution, forces are being joined in the ‘Remote Sensing for Ornamental Horticulture’ project. On February the first, five parties endorsed the mission statement and launched the project. 


Unmanned Valley, Greenport Duin- en Bollenstreek and NL Space Campus, supported by Holland Rijnland and the Municipality of Katwijk, will investigate whether the combination of various sensor techniques can enrich the image of a bulb field. Satellites are used to collect data that should provide many valuable insights on a large scale. By deploying drones with modern sensors, problem areas and even specific crops can be zoomed in on. In the near future, this may even be possible with fully autonomous systems. The resulting large amount of data will eventually be analysed by artificial intelligence. As a result, diseases, food shortages or pests could be detected much earlier than with the naked eye.


The Dune and Flowerbulb Region is a hotspot for innovative agriculture. There are numerous initiatives responding to renewing and transforming the sector. However, the collaboration between growers and experts in drone technology and satellite data is unique. The Unmanned Valley field lab lends itself perfectly to trying out the first test set-ups. So that this can then be rolled out with local entrepreneurs in the Dune and Flowerbulb Region. Furthermore, students from the ROC’s Drone Engineering & Operations course, which is located at Unmanned Valley, can contribute to optimising the technology. From the more commercial courses at Hogeschool Leiden, the business case is already being considered.


The European Union (EU) has set the goal to reduce the use of plant protection products by 50% by 2030. This is part of the EU’s larger plan to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Excessive use of plant protection products poses risks to water quality and biodiversity, among other things. Early and accurate detection of conditions against which crops need to be protected will allow these agents to be applied very precisely and significantly reduce their use.

Finding nature-friendly solutions to protect crops is going to play an ever-increasing role in the future. This brings major challenges for growers but also opportunities to stay ahead as a region. The project partners argue that the initial investments should primarily serve as a driver of promising innovation, which in turn should attract new external funding.


About Greenport Dune and Flowerbulb Region

Greenport Duin- en Bollenstreek is the cluster of knowledge, innovation, entrepreneurship, trade and cultivation (innovation) in the flower & bulb economy. Located in the municipalities of Hillegom, Katwijk, Lisse, Noordwijk, and Teylingen, the open landscape with open-field cultivation makes for an attractive region for living and recreation. Surrounding areas such as the agricultural area between Hillegom and Haarlem complete this picture. From this Greenport, contributions are made to projects, knowledge is shared and connections are made between parties such as government, entrepreneurs, research, education and environment.


About NL Space Campus

NL Space Campus is the meeting place for the (inter)national space sector, with ESA ESTEC and the universities of Leiden – Delft – Erasmus as important knowledge partners. A central place for the space community and breeding ground where start-ups and scale-ups, scientists, students and young professionals come together, collaborate, apply and share knowledge and strengthen each other. Entrepreneurs, education and research organisations, government and other (social) stakeholders meet and collaborations are initiated, knowledge sharing facilitated and stimulated, aimed at applying space knowledge, data and technology in other sectors. The campus includes ESA ESTEC, the Space Business Innovation Centre Noordwijk, Galileo Reference Centre, Centre of Excellence EGNSS, Space Expo and several space-related companies.


About Unmanned Valley

Unmanned Valley is a field lab for sensor-related technologies and applications. It is the ideal place for startups, scale-ups, established companies, knowledge institutions and governments to research, develop and test drones and other sensor-based innovations. Unmanned Valley is unique in the Netherlands. Airspace can be used continuously and flexibly and a corridor to the sea will soon make BVLOS flying possible (over land and sea). Located on former naval airbase Valkenburg is the field lab with companies and knowledge institutions making the UAV industry.

Unmanned Valley is an initiative of TU Delft and the municipality of Katwijk and is made possible by a contribution from the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).


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