The research of the quality of substrates is more-and-more fine-tuned.
Wageningen University improves visual research with image analyse and Fer Weerheijm (Independent Substrate Consulting) provided the equipment for that.
According Chris Blok (researcher Wur) this will save a lot of time and energy and finally deliver better and more precise results.
The equipment for the image analyse is not installed at its final place yet, nevertheless researcher Chris Blok worked with it for many hours already.
He is not so much focussed on the quality standards but more researching the optimal settings to achieve a fast result which can be reproduced easily.
Standardized research protocol
If we can supply our branch with a standard setting per substrate, any company can do its own research easily. Depending on the configuration this equipment costs about € 20.000.
This was too much for our budget but Fer Weerheijm was willing to buy the equipment.
Actually a “public-private-cooperation”.
“Yes, I was very curious about the possibilities of image analyse” Weerheijm added. “My problem is that I don’t have time to research personally. Wageningen has the knowledge and manpower and with this cooperation both parties are comfortable.”
The equipment is produced in Germany and seed-producing companies are using it for visual research and quality control of the seeds.
About the practical meaning of the image analyse, Blok says: “People from practice will tell you that quality and characteristics of substrates (like peat, coco, bark and compost) can be judged by colour. This is partly true; the colour differences are depending on the decomposition of the peat, which has indeed influence on the characteristic.”
With the image analyse, it is possible to analyse each substrate easy and exact, you get a good picture of quantities and qualities like form, size, deviations, colours, variations etc of the particles. For sure image analyse will be more important for quality control in the future.”
Producers can offer better specified products and their customers can judge the deviations etc.
Simple, fast and accurate
Weerheijm: “I work with substrates daily. We learned a lot, during the years but there is also a lot we do not know ! Not yet. It is not always possible to judge a substrate just by looking and feeling and also the current analyse-methods are not always sufficient. For instance some peatmoss is so fine that it is difficult to screen the real sizes and to judge the shapes of all particles.
Blok: “Nowadays Rockwool is analysed rheological. This means that the fibres first are diluted in a liquid after which a camera scans scans the particle characteristics. With this new equipment it can be done more simple, more effective and faster.”
When is something straight and when not ? The answer can take 3 to 10 years. Blok: “Because image analyse is something new for the substrate branch we are ready to take the lead. If you see the investment and compare it with the results you can get, it will not take long before companies will make the first step.”
Is I.S.C. a part of this ? “Nee” is the answer of Fer Weerheijm. “I am focussing on consultancy of producers and users of substrates. I was just curious for the possibilities of this way of analysing and gave the opportunity to Wageningen UR to do the research. I leave my equipment here and watch the results carefully so that I can use it for consulting my customers in the future. For the time being, this is enough for me !”.