About ten years ago, the idea arose at BASF Vegetable Seeds in Nunhem to have a high tech development facility under its own management in the long term. The plan was christened Greenex, which stands for Greenhouse Expansion. The first phase involved the construction of 2.5 ha greenhouses and 1.7 ha supporting facilities.
It will not come as a surprise that water control technology played an important role in this project. It was a real challenge to set up all 36 section to achieve zero emissions. Codema took on the challenge and was awarded the contract. Every section now has separate controls for either zero emissions or standard reuse of water. Everything was carefully calculated beforehand: how much water will be supplied? What does the pipe capacity need to be? What does the machine capacity need to be? And so on.
All the water that could contain pesticides is now collected separately and drained in dedicated pipe systems. This water is treated separately and then discharged. Luc Swinkels, Global Project Manager at BASF Vegetable Seeds: “We already had a lot of experience, which definitely helped. This new greenhouse has involved a lot of challenges from the start. We wanted to be ready for the future in one step. We invited the district water boards and showed how we have addressed this. It was actually really fun to share this with them. We want to take a transparent and progressive attitude with this.”
Speaking of the future. As of 2027, it will no longer be legal for farms to discharge fertilizers into surface water or sewers. This has been taken into account at BASF. With direct liquid fertilizer dosing there is as little water in the systems as possible, which is used for flushing. Peter Keunen, Greenex project manager: “This installation was truly custom made. We have very many different fertilizer recipes that we can administer at any time. This enables us to respond quickly and flexibly without the need to hold large inventories.”
This piece of technology is part of a large plan. The research location is in an isolated location (not close to horticulture operations in production). This is good for the plant health. Once the land use plans were changed, the design process followed. Codema was quick to join in. Luc Swinkels: “We knew the people from Codema. We’ve had good experiences with them. We developed the water systems together with them.”
Attention for maintenance aspects
BASF has a project organization and a maintenance organization. Luc Swinkels: “The people who do the maintenance were involved at a very early stage, and took part in discussions for a very long time. The managers are very knowledgeable. They apply high standards. So a lot of attention was already devoted to the management and maintenance aspects in the procurement process. We wanted to work with a company that has state of the art technology and is well qualified to perform service and maintenance on such a large installation.” Codema worked together with Cogas for this project. The project was too large for one company. The scope and the complexity of the installation was the major challenge in this project. The site is now already in use.