“Here in Spain, the rules pertaining to water conservation get stricter every year. That presents a major challenge to farmers,” says Miguel del Toro Peters. Together with his father, he owns Famidan, a specialist in the field of fully automated irrigation systems. Their innovative systems are largely responsible for the growing number of soft-fruit farmers in Spain. This is what they do.

Spain discovers coconut substrate

The province of Huelva is located in the south-western tip of Spain. Thirty years ago, no one here had ever heard of irrigation systems. That all changed when Carmelo del Toro settled here in 1989. In addition to developing automated irrigation systems, his company Famidan also introduced the process of growing strawberries on substrates in Spain. That was in 1996. Since then, the cultivation of strawberries and even raspberries has taken off in Spain.

Blueberries on substrates

“These days, coconut substrates are used on a large scale. Recently, farmers even started using it to grow blueberries,” Miguel del Toro Peters explains. “We are currently fully committed to conducting more experiments in that area. A precision irrigation system is a must to realise the optimal growth of the blueberry plant’s roots as well as of the plant itself. Although we are already achieving excellent results with our systems, we continue to develop them further. We use the double-layer growbags produced by Dutch Plantin to this end. We were so enthusiastic about this product for strawberries that we asked Dutch Plantin to also develop a growbag specifically designed for blueberries.”

Steep slopes

Does Spain present different challenges when it comes to cultivating soft fruits, compared to the Netherlands? Miguel is sure of it. “The slopes are quite steep here, which presents the risk of the plants in the lower areas drowning whereas those higher up are drying out. Our computer systems are therefore all custom solutions. Advanced monitoring sensors control the irrigation process and regulate the exact amount of water that each plan receives, no matter where it is planted.”

Sensors

Miguel believes these sensors are the foremost innovation in the field of irrigation. “They continuously measure the moistness of the soil, in the pots and in the substrates and control the fully automated irrigation systems. This allows us to guarantee an optimal demand-driven irrigation process, so that every plant gets exactly what it needs regardless of whether it is planted at the bottom of the valley or on top of the hill. At the same time, it helps avoid the wastage of water and fertiliser and keeps these from leaking down to e.g. lower areas. In Spain, the rules pertaining to water consumption are getting stricter every year. That presents a major challenge to farmers. However, we are convinced that this combination of substrates and a fully automated irrigation system will allow us to meet these changing environmental requirements.

More information: www.famidan.com.