Innovative technologies in the NPEC greenhouse

19 May 2020

NPEC-Kas-V4 - low res

The NPEC greenhouse is currently being built by Bosman Van Zaal and will provide specialized equipment for high throughput plant research in a controlled environment. The 5 greenhouse compartments will contain conveyor systems, gantries, watering systems, sensors and a suit of different camera’s to measure and analyse a myriad of different plant characteristics in a fully automated fashion. The overall design of the greenhouse has been developed by WUR based on design from the company PhenoKey.

 

Early 2021 the NPEC Greenhouse will be ready for large scale research experiments! Lots of innovations. More information about the used technologies:

Custom designed plant phenotyping machines

The Belgian machine builder SMO will install custom designed plant phenotyping machines to make optimal use of the greenhouse facility. One conveyor system and 2 gantries, based on the WIWAM range of high-throughput phenotyping machines, will be fitted into the greenhouse compartments.

This project allows SMO to show its core competence, namely custom-made solutions in close cooperation with the customer. The WIWAM framework ensures smooth integration of a whole set of sensors to provide the operators with a unified interface. Flexibility is key, as SMO will integrate very different imaging sensors in a building where most parameters regarding mechanical construction and facilities have been predetermined.

The gantries will be attached to the existing greenhouse construction and the conveyor system will be designed to make room for ventilation systems in the greenhouse. Even the software design of the machines will show a lot of flexibility to fit in the imposed software environment, both on the data management and configuration side, as well as the sensor data acquisition side. The WIWAM software will be able to interact with the external climate system to adjust the scheduling of the experiments. A dedicated interface to interact with 3rd party software, like the data management system PHIS and the Maxi-MARVIN imaging cabin will be designed in cooperation with WUR. Within this context, SMO keeps focus on the high-throughput and user-friendliness of the systems, without sacrificing robustness and safety aspects of the machines.

Imaging the efficiency of photosynthesis

PhenoVation, the manufacturer of camera systems for imaging whole plants on chlorophyll fluorescence, multispectral, colour and green/red fluorescence protein, provides the PSII cameras in combination with multi spectral measurements; the CropReporter system. The camera is capable of imaging the efficiency of photosynthesis, PAM and OJIP but also custom protocols, combined with chlorophyll index, anthocyanin index, color, NIR and far red imaging.

CropReporter system

The biggest challenge was fitting the CropReporter system, with a lot of different functionalities, inside one imaging cabinet and imaging all the parameters with the same camera. The CropReporter works with a monochrome camera and a filter wheel to provide the different filters. And so, make the different images. The nice thing about this concept is that all the images are pixel to pixel and so easy to analyze with free analysis software.

Plantarray- High-throughput, gravimetric and multi-sensors-based screening platform

Plant-Ditech, the Israeli Company of Research Excellence, will deliver the Plantarray system in the NPEC greenhouse. This system is a whole-plant functional (physiological) phenotyping, simulation, and diagnostic platform which accelerates plant research under stresses and different environments. Plantarray is a high-throughput, gravimetric and multi-sensors-based screening platform that continuously and simultaneously measures multiple shoot and root physiological traits, together with soil and atmosphere conditions for each plant in the array. It is suitable to most plants, growth stages, soil types, genetic and physiological studies. The cloud-based SPAC-analytics software provides a real-time, easy-to-use, quantitative comparison, and simple graphical presentation of complex experiments.

Photo: Plantarray at Haifa Group R&D and innovation center.

Maxi-MARVIN

The Maxi-Marvin is a high throughput plant phenotyping device which has been developed in-house by Wageningen University & Research. With the MARVIN technology this machines can generate 3D models of plants and accurately determine their size and shape of leaves and stems plus the overall architecture in milliseconds.

SMO will integrate the Maxi-MARVIN in the conveyor-based phenotyping setup in the NPEC greenhouse.

Timeline

In September 2020 the greenhouse construction / climate control system will be ready. Installation of equipment including testing is scheduled for October – December 2020. Early 2021 NPEC Greenhouse will be ready for large scale research experiments!