Rather than occupying large tracts of increasingly marginal land, CEA takes production indoors where the climate can be controlled, and vital inputs of nutrients and water can be precisely measured and regulated.
It includes greenhouse horticulture, hydroponics, vertical farming, aquaculture and more.
Tauranga-based Bluelab provides New Zealand designed and manufactured equipment for the global hydroponics industry. It wanted to speed up critical root zone measurements for growers and in 2015 commissioned Lincoln Agritech to help with designing and prototyping a handheld moisture probe for the hydroponics and horticulture industries.
Lincoln Agritech provided technical know-how, electronic design, and underlying software concepts so the meter could work in various solid or liquid growth media, such as potting mixes and nutrient solutions.
Bluelab then further developed and commercialised the prototype technology, adding Bluetooth connectivity, designing the sensor aesthetics and ergonomics, and producing an accompanying mobile phone app.
The resulting three-in-one meter measures moisture levels, soil conductivity (which correlates to nutrient levels) and temperature. It was launched as PulseTM and was internationally available from 2019.
The sensor provides fast, accurate root zone measurements and sends data directly to a mobile phone app in less than 10 seconds.
A New Zealand kiwifruit nursery trialled the device and increased grade-A plant output by 10% in one season after being able to “drive the plants better” with the root zone measurements.
In 2019 the Pulse meter was a finalist in two categories of the New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards – the Most Innovative Hi-Tech Hardware Product category and the Most Innovative Hi-Tech Agritech Solution category.