Conference on the key role of plant substrates in modern horticulture and everyday life
Hosted and chaired by MEP Franc Bogovič and organised by Growing Media Europe AISBL, the conference held on 5 November 2018 in the European Parliament showcased how growing media are part of everyone´s daily life, contributing e.g. to food security, natural resource protection and healthier living spaces.
In his welcoming words, MEP Franc Bogovič acknowledged, that “The average citizen is unaware of the important role that growing media - often called “potting soil” or “substrates”- play in our society. Today we want to take a closer look and gain some insights in these products, that are used to grow our food, to make our cities greener, to plant flowers in our gardens and for several other purposes.”
In his introduction Growing Media Europe chairman Stefaan Vandaele pointed out that “With a turnover of less than 2 billion Europe wide, we might be a small industry, but without our products, the world would be a very different place.” Addressing the political decision makers in the room, he stressed the fact, that growing media and soil improver are currently not regulated on European level but produced under national laws, which differ significantly between Member States. “We are one of the few industries, who are actively pushing for a European harmonization, leading to a level playing field for production methods, quality standards and labeling rules. Of course, these regulations would need to be workable in practice and take into account the special nature and high innovation rate of our products”, he explained.
Chris Blok from Wageningen University and Research contributed a detailed overview on the exploding future demand for growing media, focusing on the time frame 2020- 2050 and concluding that “growing media-based crop production can provide answers to several challenges our world is facing today, including water, area and nutrient efficiency”.
Focussing on the role of growing media in “Circular horticulture”, Bart Vandecasteele from ILVO, the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, emphasised their resource efficiency and demonstrated the possibility of reusing growing media. Presenting a recently started project on upcycling growing media (“Interreg 2 Seas Horti-Blue C Project”), he added that “growing media can be highly multifunctional and thus offer several benefits not only for growers, but for the environment and society in general”.
Philippe Binard, General Delegate of Freshfel Europe, the European Fresh Produce Association underlined the relevance of a sustainable and healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables for the European consumers. In this respect, he stated that "growing media can play an important role in addressing some of the consumers expectations for a more sustainable method of production, with less water usage, more biocontrol and reduced pesticide usage".
Giving an outlook to the future of food production, Thomas Zöllner from the Association for Vertical Farming stated that “vertical farming might still be a niche in the EU, but it is in fact one of the solutions to make food production more resilient, reliable and more efficient to meet the demand of the future”.