A novel crop cultivation system has been released to the Australian market, featuring a supply tank and tubing that allows a crop to grow at the desired rate with increased nutrient and water absorption.

According to World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the current global population sits at 7.6 billion. This figure is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.

With this rapid rise in population, it is essential for the agriculture industry to implement stable and sustainable food production practices to effectively feed the world. However, the industry continues to face additional challenges, including access to water for agricultural use and the need to reduce the excessive use of fertilisers and other crop protection products. Labour and production costs are also rising, opening up an opportunity for technology to help growers produce higher value crops at a lower cost.

Developing a quality crop

To assist with growing premium quality produce on a larger scale, Mitsui Chemicals has developed iCAST® (Integrated Cultivation- Accelerating System), a simple system consisting of a supply tank and crop cultivation tubing. This tubing contains the Integrated Cultivation-Accelerating Material, known as iCALM®.

This accelerating material can retain water or a nutrient solution from the supply tank for as long as crop growth is required. It also allows a plant to absorb more water for longer, and lessen the impact on soil and groundwater. Due to its unique structure, the crop roots developed in and out of iCALM® can obtain the ingredients essential for crop growth as required, such as water, nutrients and oxygen.

Over the past three years, Mitsui Chemicals has conducted field trials involving iCAST® with rural development partners in Australia and the United States. The development of the machines required for installing/uninstalling crop cultivation tubing in the fields is also ongoing and a prototype is expected to be available in the field soon.

A productive future

According to Mitsui Chemicals, this type of crop cultivation system can allow vegetable growers to harvest higher quality crops at higher yields, and in turn, maximise their return on produce.

It can also help growers contribute to sustainable growing practices, save water and minimise the use of fertilisers, chemicals and energy on-farm; and ultimately reduce the cost of labour.

Note: This article first appeared in the November/December 2018 edition of Vegetables Australia. However, the website published was incorrect. For more information about iCAST® and iCALM®, please contact Mitsui Chemicals New Agribusiness Development Leader Hirozumi Matsuno at hirozumi.matsuno@mitsuichemicals.com.

This post appeared in the AUSVEG Weekly Update published 18 December 2018. Subscribe to the Update using our online form to receive the latest industry news in your inbox every week!