Water availability in the agricultural and horticultural sector

Life ACLIMA aims to support agricultural and horticultural businesses in finding future-oriented and sustainable answers to the increasing water demand and decreasing water availability caused by climate change.

Monitoring van de waterbehoefte van pluimvee bij gebruik van waterkoeling.
Inzet van gezuiverd huishoudelijk afvalwater

Every drop counts

How to ensure sufficient future water supply for agriculture and horticulture? That’s an important question that we want to answer over the next five years with a promising European Union water project: Life ACLIMA.

Over the course of this Life-project, several partners will develop and demonstrate a wide range of technologies, management strategies and measures at agricultural and horticultural practice centers in the province of Antwerp. These demonstrations will show farmers and horticulturalists that there are various possibilities for sustainable water availability on their farms, thus making the water landscape more climate-proof while respecting the environment.

Our 5 pillars

Water-saving

Water is an indispensable commodity in agricultural and horticultural sectors. But how to remain as productive, let alone grow with less water usage? That’s the key question. There are various ways of saving water, ranging from preventing evaporation losses in water basins, to cooling livestock buildings, and reduced drinking water consumption. Within Life ACLIMA, we research how the agricultural sector can optimize water usage.

Increasing the use of rainwater

We will demonstrate various possibilities for  purification and safe use of rainwater as drinking water for dairy cattle and poultry, in the livestock farming sector. In the greenhouse horticulture sector, we’ll demonstrate how the current water basins can be used even better for storing rainwater under the changing climate.

Investing in water infiltration

Flooding is caused by increased rainfall intensity and hard surfaces’ limited infiltration capacity. Level-controlled drainage and climate-adaptive drainage for agricultural and horticultural plots are both efficient infiltration methods that limit water nuisance and replenishing the groundwater table .

Water reuse

Rational water use is not merely a matter of saving water. It’s also about using the right water source for its application. Agricultural and horticultural companies often have considerable (residual) water flows. These can be used to reduce water demand at a company level, provided they get purified.

External water sources

Sustainable and climate-proof alternative water sources are available for those who seek them. Life Aclima focusses on two adaptation strategies that use alternative water sources: capturing of surface water when it’s abundant, and usage of treated urban (non-industrial) wastewater from sewage treatment.

Any questions?

Are you an agriculturist or a citizen taking interest in our project, and do you wish to enquire about actions or events? Do not hesitate to contact Life Aclima. Our researchers look forward to answering your questions.

Our partners

Aquafin

Every day, more than 1,200 enthusiastic Aquafin employees work to create clean watercourses and strive for a living environment in harmony with water. Aquafin takes care of the development and management of the sewerage network in Flanders and, in that way, purifies the household wastewater of Flemish families. In this way, we give clean water back to nature. There is no drinking water for humans, but a paradise for fish, birds, and amphibians, which is good for biodiversity.

But Aquafin goes beyond clean rivers and streams. We also aim to use rainwater sustainably and smartly. We want to arm Flanders against the increasing drought and more common flooding using the proper measures and ingenious rainwater plans.

Together, we are striving for an environment in harmony with water.

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Hooibeekhoeve

Hooibeekhoeve is the independent demonstration farm for dairy farming, fodder crops and rural development of the province of Antwerp. As a trial farm, Hooibeekhoeve strives for sustainable dairy farming in Flanders.

We do this by celebrating objective and practice-oriented research in partnership with the sector, stimulating the exchange of knowledge with and between dairy farmers, growers of forage crops, farmers, landscape builders and associations active in the countryside and the government. And by ensuring open dialogue between the agricultural sector and the general public. All this is in partnership with the entire agricultural industry.

The Hooibeekhoeve has built up a great deal of expertise in knowledge transfer through various projects and aspect research. The research and projects find their way to the farmer through group information, demos, entrepreneurial groups, barn and test field visits, company advice and individual guidance. In addition, there is close cooperation with agricultural schools also to reach the future farmers.

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POM Antwerpen

POM Antwerp is involved in the (re)development of sustainable business parks and greenhouse cultivation areas in the province of Antwerp. We build the bridge between government and companies to realise sustainable projects. In addition, we have extensive experience facilitating and coordinating projects to make companies more sustainable. For example, we (re)develop business parks and coordinate large infrastructure projects such as the construction of collective water buffers and a heat network at Terbekehof in Wilrijk and an Otter corridor in Rumst.

Since 2019, POM Antwerpen has been working on climate adaptation in the Mechelse Groenteregio. To this end, we have set up a partnership with the municipalities of Duffel, Putte, Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Kontich, Rumst and the City of Lier, the Integrated Water Policy (DIW) and Agricultural and Rural Policy (DLP) departments of the Province of Antwerp, Regional Landscape Rivierenland (RLRL), Proefstation for Vegetable Production (PSKW), Pidpa, Natuurpunt and Boerenbond.

We believe that we can ensure better water quality, a more secure and sustainable water supply, and fewer water shortages by working together. We work together with farmers, horticulturalists, companies, villagers and water and landscape managers on a cross-functional and area basis.

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Proefbedrijf Pluimveehouderij

Proefbedrijf Pluimveehouderij in Geel is the practical centre for poultry in Flanders with an international reputation. The trial farm has a unique, high-tech infrastructure for laying hens and broilers, suitable for testing system innovations, concepts, strategies and new technologies under experimental conditions. It houses 31,000 laying hens in 48 experimental groups in different husbandry systems and 42,000 broilers in 32 experimental groups.

With its practice-based research, the farm ensures that the poultry sector can remain a profitable industry that optimally responds to the demands of society: quality food, animal health, animal welfare, environment and climate.

The trial farm has an extensive national and international network. It can share its accumulated knowledge and build on existing research and experience in the poultry sector in a structured manner.

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Proefcentrum Hoogstraten

Proefcentrum Hoogstraten (PCH) is a research centre in Belgium, in the north of the province of Antwerp, in the middle of an important horticultural area.

Proefcentrum Hoogstraten specialises in greenhouse cultivation (strawberry, tomato, sweet pepper) and strawberry cultivation in open air/tunnels (in soil and on tabletops). The centre specialises in applied scientific horticultural research and advice and plays an active role in the development and growth of horticulture in Belgium and abroad. The research teams are specialised in the most modern ways of cultivating various crops. The vegetable research takes place in greenhouses, mainly on rock wool. Here, the latest evolutions in biological control and assimilation lighting are realised. Practical and demonstrative research in these crops translates fundamental research into horticultural practice, providing information and answers to questions from professional growers and other companies in the horticultural sector.

The most important research themes are variety trials, cultivation techniques, new cultivation systems and technologies, disease and pest control, fertilisation, sustainable water use, energy, fruit quality, residue depreciation, etc.

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Rivierenland

Rivierenland in the water-rich region in the southwest of the province of Antwerp. The rivers Rupel, Dijle, Nete, Scheldt and Zenne form the blue thread. Nowhere else in Flanders do so many rivers come together in a relatively small area. The freshwater tides also provide a unique fauna and flora.

Regional Landscape Rivierenland wants to preserve and reinforce this unique regional identity by developing projects concerning landscape care, nature conservation, greenery in the city, education and landscape recreation.

 

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Sumaqua

Sumaqua is a high-tech engineering company originating from KU Leuven that focuses on water management and modelling. Founded in 2017, Sumaqua consists of a team of around ten experts.

Sumaqua offers consultancy services and in-house software aimed at governments and private parties. Sumaqua’s activities are focused on increasing the resilience of cities and water systems, conducting climate impact analyses and adaptation planning, developing forecasting systems and intelligent steering. In this way, Sumaqua tackles drought, flooding, and water quality problems. To this end, Sumaqua relies on a wide range of advanced modelling and machine learning techniques that it develops itself. Through this unique combination of state-of-the-art technology and expertise, Sumaqua develops the most effective strategies for water management and policy support. Sumaqua also provides training to experts in the field of water management.

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Dienst Landbouw Provincie Antwerpen

The Agricultural Service (DLB) of the province of Antwerp implements the provincial agricultural vision. This vision focuses on five strategies that can only succeed through cooperation:

  1. Agriculture as a link in the agribusiness complex
  2. Food production with the consumer as its neighbour
  3. Agricultural production in harmony with the environment
  4. Agriculture as a landscape builder
  5. Experiential agriculture gives people a taste of agriculture.

A project like ACLIMA focuses on a whole number of these strategies.

Furthermore, as a supra-local authority, we have an excellent spatial overview, making cross-border cooperation (between, e.g. municipalities) easier. For example, the Province of Antwerp has a lot of spatial expertise on board: from water to nature, agriculture and mobility This ensures that spatial planning processes can be examined from various angles to arrive at the most integrated solutions that provide that our area is resilient the future.

In addition to implementing policy and planning initiatives, the province is also responsible for granting environmental permits.

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Proefstation voor de Groenteteelt

The Research Station for Vegetable Culture (PSKW) is a research institute focused on research, development and innovation in the vegetable sector.

Its mission is to support the collective vegetable production sector in its pursuit of a future-oriented, innovative, competitive and sustainable position through practical and applied research, activities to promote the flow of knowledge and information, and this with respect for the policy choices of the Flemish Government. To this end, new knowledge is developed and, together with existing knowledge, valorised in practical applications and distributed proactively to the sector.

The objectives of the Research Station for Vegetable Production include:

  • Testing the results of (applied) agricultural research under experimental conditions.
  • Investigating the application possibilities of new techniques and cultivation methods.
  • Improving existing practices and cultivation methods under experimental conditions.

We also want to contribute to building the image of the Belgian vegetable sector among the general public by vulgarising the results of research, development and innovation, particularly the efforts made in terms of sustainable production and food safety.

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(Co-) Financierders

This project was made financialy possible by Life, the Vlaamse overheid departement landbouw en visserij and department omgeving and the Province of Antwerp.

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