Wspólnotowy Serwis Informacyjny Badan i Rozwoju - CORDIS

FP7

ZEPHYR Streszczenie raportu

Project ID: 308313
Źródło dofinansowania: FP7-ENVIRONMENT
Kraj: Italy

Final Report Summary - ZEPHYR (Zero-impact innovative technology in forest plant production)

Executive Summary:
ZEPHYR is a cooperative research project funded under FP7 that successfully developed a new, zero-impact technology for the pre-cultivation of plants and trees in a sustainable controlled environment where ornamental, medicinal and other valuable plants can grow, starting from the seeds, in an automated nursery assistant.
Zephyr Consortium is composed by 14 partners (7 of them are SMEs) coming from 10 different EU Countries who developed the key components of the new system, including a rotating set of trays under an array of LED lamps, a robotic arm equipped with a camera, and wireless micro-sensors that monitor the substrate conditions. Thanks to its rotating system, the Zephyr innovative growth chamber provides uniform average conditions that current, “static” chambers cannot guarantee.
Zephyr highly automated growth chamber requires less water, soil, energy and space; plants grow in individual pots containing the optimal amount of soil substrate, and instead of the 10 overhead lamps required by comparable systems, it relies on only 3. The combination of wireless micro sensors and camera inspection means that conditions in the chamber can be monitored by remote. The system thus produces plantlets of consistent quality, with the strong roots they will need to survive once transplanted.
Zephyr has also produced growth protocols for a wide variety of species that are associated to specific spectra to provide the optimal growth.
The project has been completed in November 2015, and now, due to the promising market opportunities highlighted by the market analysis, ZEPHYR is approaching the industrial implementation phase , including the application to a H2020 Fast Track to Innovation call.

Project Context and Objectives:
ZEPHYR has successfully developed a new, zero-impact technology for the pre-cultivation of plants and trees: a sustainable controlled environment where ornamental, medicinal and other valuable plants can grow, starting from the seeds, in a robotized nursery assistant, not affected by outdoor climate and with LED lights providing an optimal spectrum for the photosynthesis. Light intensity, photo-period and further parameters are automatically regulated by a control system that receives data from several sensors, while the energy is provided by solar panels.
Zephyr aims to introduce its innovative technology in the first step of the plants and trees production chain towards three main production fields:
- Forest regeneration operations ; biodiversity protection, forest species for timber production;
- Valuable species, medicinal plants and ornamental species used by architects and landscapers;
The developed new technology is able to produce high quality forest plants stocks ready to be transplanted in pots or in field at low costs; the Zephyr unit recycles water and avoids fertilizers and e pesticides, through a combined action of the optimal environmental conditions, movement of the trays and the use of a bactericide lamp in the recycled water, as already demonstrated in previous experiments. No pollutants are released into the environment.
A noticeable reduction of emissions is achieved through a low energy consumption, reduced by up to 70% respect to the traditional nursery pre-cultivations.
The exploitation of the Zephyr results will strongly improve the competitiveness of the participating SMEs

Project Results:
The Zephyr project has developed a new, zero-impact growth chamber for the pre-cultivation of plants and trees: a sustainable controlled environment where plants can grow, starting from the seeds, in a robotized nursery assistant. The continuous movement of trays with “mini-plugs” (very small container plants in containers less than 37 cm3 in volume) guarantees an average environment (light, temperature and humidity) equal for each plant, almost impossible to be obtained with ordinary growth chambers.
Key components of the new system include a rotating set of trays under an array of LED lamps, a robotic arm equipped with a camera, and wireless micro-sensors that monitor growth conditions.
Forest plants need very specific conditions for ensuring seed germination and then an adequate growth with strong roots: providing these conditions is the only way to preserve biodiversity, as plants produced from cuttings are essentially clones.
The growth chamber is composed by:
-10 shelves in continuous rotation; each shelve can contain 2 plastic trays of size 53 x 31.5 cm;
-an air conditioning system;
-an irrigation system through immersion of each rotating shelf;
a robotic arm carrying stereoscopic cameras, able to monitor each single “mini plug”;
One of the Zephyr growth chamber’s particular strengths is that it provides uniform conditions. In the current, “static” chambers and greenhouses, seedlings remain in the same spot for large stretches of time, and some are thus nearer to key components, such as lamps and coolers, than others. In the ZEPHYR system both light and fresh air come from the top and the rotating system guarantee average uniform conditions: thus all seedlings benefit from the same amounts of light, moisture and warmth. Seedlings are placed on revolving trays, taking turns in the best spots.
The system therefore produces plantlets of consistent quality, with the strong roots they will need to survive after being transplanted.
A further strength of the Zephyr unit is the replacement of the conventional light sources with use of specific Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), due to its considerably lower energy consumption, reduced heat emission and extended lifetime of the light source.
In the concept of intense cultivation the possibility of using LEDs instead of other artificial light contributes to major economic and environmental benefits. It is more cost efficient, improves the sustainable management of forest production and contributes to the environmental protection through a noticeable energy saving. It will also reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and, since the LED lamps do not produce additional warming, there will be further energy saving by reducing the air conditioning costs.
The Zephyr unit is space and energy saving , with a daily average electricity consumption of 1,45 Kw (total max load 1,9 Kw) for the simultaneous pre-cultivation in 20 trays (10 shelves carrying 2 trays each).
In order to show such a low consumption in several fairs and exhibitions, the growth unit has been placed in a standard TEU container and fully powered with 20 photovoltaic panels placed in a foldable system on the roof of the container. The system allows an ordinary transportation via truck complying with the road transport rules.
Another innovation of the Zephyr project is the design and development of the new sensor for soil parameters and new sensors for shoot portions by optical detection measuring the shoot height (stereoscopic optical analysis) and ‘greenness’ (digital image analysis). This development deals with soil parameters by ‘stick’ sensor and shoot portion by optical sensors.
A production route for electrodes with high-throughput manufacturing methods for cost-efficiency was established: printing technologies like screen-printing play an important role for the production of sensor electrodes. To automate the process of fabricating printed sensor electrodes a robot-assisted production line was set-up, which allows different printing methods to be combined in a single run.
The stereo camera has been mounted on a robotic arm able to take pictures of every plantlet in the system, by using the grid of the mini-pots as reference, together with the number of the shelf. The arm has also a gripper that will conduct some tests (not originally foreseen in the DoW) targeted to a future embedding in a fully automated production unit.
A central control system allows to control all the actuators according to the growth protocol inserted, as well as to monitor the system by remote.
A very short video showing the prototype running is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcHGu9KKSWc ; more videos and pictures are available on the project web site www.zephyr-project.eu

Potential Impact:
ZEPHYR meets the Smart and Sustainable Growth priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy and in particular the Innovation Union flagship initiative. The innovative technology built on pre-cultivation of plants and trees in a zero-impact and cost-friendly unit will grant an efficient resources use, the protection of biodiversity and a competitive advantage to the involved SMEs.
The potential impact associated to the deployment of the Zephyr products and services is given by the noticeable reduction of surface, energy, space and water need per number of seedlings produced.
The system has an high scalability: several units can work jointly, so the Zephyr system can be adapted to a small nursery up to a large one. It is also extremely flexible: the growth chamber can be built as a simple rotating unit with LED lamps controlled by a PLC, up to a fully robotized Zephyr system like in the existing prototype.
The cost and environmental benefits of the Zephyr system will open a substantial market for pre-grown forest regeneration materials in Europe and the rest of the world. Besides the benefits for local nurseries when using pre-grown forest regeneration materials, the proposed technology will also be beneficial for the end-users.
Due to the improved cost efficiency and quality in the production, landscapers and architects will make financial gains when using these materials for renaturing cities and green infrastructure projects.
The dissemination of the project activities was developed through a continuously updated web site, several dissemination activities and publications. The project has been disseminated in three different events inside the EXPO 2015 in Milan, and the prototype has been exhibited in the centre of Milan during an EXPO-connected event. Two pages describing the Zephyr project has been published on the EXPO 2015 special edition of PAYSAGE TOPSCAPE, an international magazine targeted to architects, landscapers and urban planner; such professionals, often appointed by municipalities for renaturing cities projects, are considered relevant end-users of the Zephyr technology.
Dissemination outside Europe included poster presentations in Lebanon, Mexico, and USA , made by the universities involved in the project, while the SME VALOYA participated at three exhibitions in the USA.
The market analysis developed during the project highlighted several competitive advantages of the Zephyr technology and a potential wide market application, both in Europe and overseas (particularly in China) for renaturing cities, green infrastructures and urban horticulture. The exploitation of the results are going ahead and now the ZEPHYR project is approaching the industrial implementation phase , including the application to a Fast Track to Innovation project funded by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 programme. A call for an industrial partner able to implement an industrial production of the ZEPHYR prototype in cooperation with the other partners has been published on the project web site.


List of Websites:
www.zephyr-project.eu
Project manager: Ing. Carlo Polidori - polidori.carlo@telenet.be - Tel. +32 497 794 867

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Bartolomeo Schirone, (Full Professor)
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Numer rekordu: 183776 / Ostatnia aktualizacja: 2016-06-03
Źródło informacji: SESAM