Crop.Zone develops alternative solutions for weed control and crop desiccation. The German-based company creates chemical-free alternative concepts and products, helping farmers to prepare their fields and get their crops ready for harvest in a sustainable, environmentally sound way. In Europe, this is traditionally done with the aid of chemicals. But the individuals who are the driving force behind Crop.Zone want to change all of that.
“We are developing alternative methods for this, following the green deal regulations,” says Dirk Vandenhirtz, CEO of Crop.Zone. “We use a concept that has been around for a long time: If electricity is applied to plants, it destroys the chlorophyll and the water system of a plant. The problem is the high amount of energy required for this process. We have discovered that plants can be made more sensitive to such treatments with electricity, by spraying a very light saline solution on them beforehand. The environmental impact is extremely low. These are formulations that are already in use in organic farming.”
Vandenhirtz goes on to say: “Our so called ‘volt fuel’ increase the plants’ conductivity, and as a result we are able to apply ten times less energy to dessicate crops for example. This means that the crop.zone method uses less energy, and the application width for desiccation can be increased beyond 24 meters. Our 2021 generation products will already apply at 12 meters. From 2022 onwards we will be ready for 24 meter applications.”
Vandenhittz says Crop.Zone therefore has an even lower impact on the living organisms and other beneficiaries in the soil. He believes they have discovered a method that can economically and ecologically improve the existing model of crop desiccation.
When it comes to technical realities, Vandenhirtz explains that crop.zone uses two attachments. A standard sprayer is fitted at the front of the tractor, whilst the crop.zone electrical application unit is installed at the rear. The configuration is as follows: The tractor’s PTO shaft drives a generator. This converts the mechanical energy into electrical energy.
The energy is distributed to converters in a “switch cabinet”. Converters are electronic units that transform low voltage into high voltage. This power is then transferred to the application frame, which is located at the very back. These electrodes then channel the energy into the plants. The plant completes the circuit and is thereby destroyed.
“This season we have been out in the field,” Vandenhirtz says. “We have driven, measured, examined the measured values, made adjustments, re-measured, and in doing so we have optimized the applicator step by step. We now know the optimum setting of the applicator. It will now go into series production with a design that is sufficiently robust to withstand continuous operation in real-field situations”.
Vandenhirtz says Crop.Zone has established a so-called “Groundbreaker Programme” for 2021. Working in cooperation with interested farmers and industrial partners, they will test their final design on the harsh conditions typical of a farmer’s field.
“For this purpose, we will construct 30 systems next year and operate them together with farmers, whilst also providing scientific support from our end. We are in contact with the chamber of agriculture, the Julius Kühn Institute, and in Switzerland with the FiBL Institute. The system will be made available to all farmers in 2022. We want to get started on a commercial level at that time.”
Vandenhirtz says they are now a team of 14. “I myself am a biologist with extensive knowledge of plants. Crop.Zone employs computer scientists, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, agronomists, mechanics and electricians. Development of the Crop.Zone concept no doubt requires a wide range of expertise.”
Food production currently means high energy consumption and the extensive use of chemicals. Crop.Zone wants to ultimately change all of that.
Dirk Vandenhirtz: “I believe that everyone at Crop.Zone shares the idea and vision of breaking new ground and developing farming systems and solutions that are sustainable. After all, food production is a necessity. But perhaps it can be done in a different way.”
Anyone with an interest to join the Crop.Zone team is welcome to get in touch with Dirk Vandenhirtz at [email protected].
Visit Crop.Zone’s website for further information: www.crop.zone
The Crop.Zone video below can also be found and watched on YouTube here.