Global experts discuss growing plants in artificial media

by | Nov 8, 2021 | Article, News

Producing crops in artificial media brings many benefits. One of the main benefits being a lower occurrence of soil-borne disease.

It however also sets certain demands. Plant nutrition expert, Dr Nic Combrink, explains that your well-draining substrate must be regularly fertigated by adding nutrients to the irrigation water at optimum ratios and concentrations.

This is due to the low buffering capacity of artificial growing media which means that it will make a very small contribution to plant nutrition. Nutrients will have to be applied to the plant very accurately and during the correct growing stages to be able to fulfil the needs of the plant.

Combrink explains that, in artificial media, roots must function in a relatively small volume. This means that it will need more frequent irrigations than soil. “However, if water is applied too frequently, it will lead to water-logging and non-functional roots. The low water holding capacity of artificial media therefore means that water and nutrients will have to be applied often and in small quantities.”

These complexities demand a lot of attention to detail and strategic actions from the producer. Luckily, the producer is not alone as the field has made great strides in developing expertise on industry and academic level. Experts in the industry have a wealth of knowledge to share and want to affect continuous progress on farm level.

Netafim South Africa and Vegtech Netafim understand the important of sharing knowledge and therefore created an opportunity for global experts to share knowledge on growing plants in artificial media. It is a privilege to host a seminar with leading experts from Belgium and South Africa. The seminar will focus on growing plants in an artificial medium and a protected environment. It will take place on 23 November 2021 from 07:45 – 14:00 at Protea Hotel, Technopark, Stellenbosch and can be attended in person or on our virtual platform.

The following topics will be addressed:

  • Dr Stan Deckers: Water quality and hydroponics considering specific crop characteristics, possibility of re-using drain water and the risk of the dripper clogging.
  • Dr Nic Combrink: Optimising plant production by preventing cut-out.
  • Dr Stan Deckers: Sampling in hydroponics and translating results into crop-specific advice for solid or liquid fertilisers use.
  • Dr Rykie van der Westhuizen: Using capacitance water sensors to schedule irrigation for crops grown hydroponically in coir.
  • Willem Smit: Irrigation equipment related to filtration and nutrigation when growing in an artificial medium
  • Deon van Rooyen: Climate control in a protected environment.


“The field of growing plants in artificial media and protected environments has seen rapid growth and across the globe many experts have made great efforts to research in this field in order to strengthen the hands of producers,” says Chris Malan, agronomy manager at Netafim South Africa.

As the industry evolves, it is important that we adapt our way of thinking and the way we apply the available irrigation and fertigation technologies. Netafim South African and Vegtech Netafim believe that we have the responsibility to act as link between industry role-players, experts in the industry and producers in order to help the industry grow more with less.

“This seminar is the perfect platform and a unique opportunity for role players to come together to take in the latest knowledge on irrigation and fertigation of plants grown in artificial media.”

Interested parties can follow THIS LINK to RSVP or get more information.

Enquiries: Eugene Booysen; Cape AgriTours; +27 82 57075 20; Enquiries about virtual attendance: Alex Booysen; +27 72 760 6506. Media enquiries: Marike Brits; 072 185 5157;

About Dr Stan Deckers

Dr Stan Deckers is a Belgian agricultural engineer and a highly regarded expert in plant nutrition. In his capacity as department head at the Soil Service of Belgium he mainly focusses on fertiliser recommendations for horticulture and agriculture.

Deckers has a long history of cooperation with the Department of Agronomy at Stellenbosch University. Since 2002, he has intensely cooperated with the department, specifically focussing on managing nutrition in hydroponic systems.


About Dr Nic Combrink

Dr Nic Combrink needs almost no introduction in the plant nutrition industry. As retired lecturer from Stellenbosch University he has published countless scientific papers and several books on nutrient solution management.

He has played a ground-breaking role in research on plant nutrition on several crops, developed many courses focussed on soilless crop production and continues to develop guidelines around best practices in this field.


About Dr Rykie van Der Westhuizen

Dr Rykie van der Westhuizen is a crop production specialist and highly regarded consultant in the greenhouse and hydroponic industries.

She has a rich employment history in agricultural academia and in 2012, established a private company through which she does consultation, mentorship, training, and project management for high level agricultural projects.

She is currently developing a software application for nutrient solution balancing and is involved in other software projects in collaboration with other industry role-players. Van der Westhuizen has published several scientific papers and is in process of publishing a practical guide to hydroponic vegetable and herb production in South Africa.

About Netafim

Netafim is the world’s largest irrigation company and the global leader in precision irrigation solutions. It is active in 110 countries with 33 subsidiaries and 17 manufacturing plants worldwide, one of which is Netafim South Africa, housed in Kraaifontein in the Western Cape. Netafim South Africa has been serving South Africa and its neighbouring countries with irrigation solutions and services since 1992.

Driven by its slogan, ‘Grow more with lessTM’, it Driven by its slogan, ‘Grow more with lessTM’, its offering includes a wide range of leading irrigation and complementary solutions across all crops, conditions, and terrains. This includes drippers and driplines, micro and macro sprinklers, valves, filters, water meters, crop management technology (CMT), and ever-developing digital farming solutions. The extensive product offer is supported by experienced agronomic and technical support based on years of accumulated knowledge as the leader in precision irrigation solutions. For more information, visit

About Vegtech Netafim

Vegtech Netafim, part of the Netafim Group of Companies, is a leading supplier of turnkey greenhouse projects. The Company, based in Cape town, operates throughout the African continent with projects in South Africa, SADC, Central, West and Northern Africa, and offers a wide range of cutting edge, high-tech solutions for all undercover growing requirements. For more information, visit



Article Archives

Search for more articles

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content

Stay current with our monthly editions

Share This
Shopping cart
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping