The Research Station has a greenhouse complex with a gross area of 13,000 m², net of 10,560 m² on Duffelsesteenweg. In the greenhouse complex, 35 independent sections are mostly planted as follows:

Small-scale research/ semi-field trials:

  • 1 department (220m² ) was equipped with 2 water circuits and provided for cultivation on cultivation tables.
  • 2 departments (160m² each) were equipped with provision for 6 separate closed water circuits, cultivation on growing gutters or cultivation tables is possible here.
  • 2 departments (80m² each) are equipped for small-scale trials on cultivation tables or in cages.

Field trials

Trials under field conditions can be laid out on different scales:

  • 160 to 840m² for growing fruiting vegetables on cultivation gutters (tomato – sweet pepper – cucumber (high wire – traditional cultivation) – aubergine, …)
  • Lighting (LED, SON-T or hybrid)
  • Screening (single and double screening)
  • Different types of glass

Soil cultivation

  • Divisions 220-660m²

Hydro cultivation of leafy crops

  • Departments 240 – 480m²
  • Possibility of 2 to 3 closed water circuits , possibility of installing different disinfection technologies (rapid sand filter, activated carbon, ozone, ultrafiltration, …)
  • Different types of glass
  • Lighting (LED, SON-T or hybrid)
  • Screening (single and double screening)

Climate and irrigation computers

The greenhouse complex is controlled by climate and irrigation computers that control all departments independently. Each department has separate climate loggers, irrigation systems, and climate instruments (window ventilation, heating, single or double screen). An independent nutrient solution can be created for each department; some departments are further divided into three subdivisions.

Energy supply

To meet its energy needs, the Research Station invested in a new CHP (1MW) in 2019 because this technology allowed it to meet the heat, electricity and CO2 needs of greenhouse crops. With this, the CHP heat pump piste was abandoned then because this setup did not allow CO2 doses to be realized as common in practice, which was reflected in productivity and quality of production.

The heat pump is still present at the Research Station today.

The residual heat from the CHP is used to heat the office buildings and the asparagus beds, the latter part of years of research into asparagus growing earlier.

With the investment in the floating solar panel deck (2,400m²), alternative energy sources were used. The solar panel deck of 564 panels has a capacity of 225kWp, and the inverters allow a total of 180kW. The floating solar panel deck has been active since 2020 and monitoring electricity production. From March to September, the solar panels contribute to meeting the primary consumption of the greenhouse and office buildings.

Water management

The Research Station strives to meet the water requirements of its crops sustainably. To this end, two water basins are present on the site. A first water basin (8,500m³) collects rainwater from the greenhouse and office buildings and supplies the greenhouse crops with water. A second basin (5,600m³) is fed from the overflow of the first basin, the collected rainwater from the machine sheds of the open-air crops, the tunnels and the drainage water from the trial plots. Through these two basins, the Research Station meets the largest share of the crops’ water needs. In the arid summer period of 2022, only at the end of August was switched to tap water.

Furthermore, the Research Station has a spray silo for collecting nutrient-rich residual water. The outdoor crops utilize this spray stream during the growing season.

On the occasion of the new construction, the weather station of the RMI that used to stand on the grounds of the Research Station next to the auction was also moved to the Duffelsesteenweg and planted in the middle of the fields of outdoor crops. The weather station was completely renewed, and the weather data were automatically recorded and retrieved via telephone by the RMI.

Outdoor crops

For outdoor crops, the Research Station has a total cultivatable area in an open field of 9.25 ha, of which 4.25 ha on the Muilshoek. The fields on the Duffelsesteenweg were used in 2007, and the first trial plots on the Muilshoek were used in the 1980s.

The fields are equipped with telescopic irrigation and are divided into beds of 1.75 m. Within the framework of the irrigation research, installations for irrigation via drip irrigation are also being constructed. The experimental plots are fully equipped with drainage systems, given the clayey subsoil.

Most of the research at the Research Station is done on beds. Bed cultivation allows growers in the region to start cultivation early in spring because the surface water drains away faster (important in an area with superficial clay layers in the subsoil), and the soil warms up more quickly.

In 2005, research was started on asparagus. For this, the necessary adjustments were made. These included the construction of an underground heating network that uses the low-grade residual heat from the CHP to bring forward the asparagus harvest.


In 2020, additional plots (2.5 ha) were purchased by BelOrta and made available to the Research Station. The construction of phase 2 on Duffelsesteenweg reduced the trial plots’ surface area. The expansion of the trial plots at the Muilshoek compensated for this reduction and offered the possibility to centralise further the research, which was now spread over rented plots in the region due to a lack of space. The roads were reconstructed, and irrigation systems were reinstalled. The water basin was considerably enlarged, and the possibility of collecting drainage water was provided. Level-controlled drainage is also possible on these plots. In this way, the site is fully equipped to enable ongoing and future water- and soil-related research.

Greenhouse Muilshoek

The greenhouse at Muilshoek is divided into two sections (600 m² each) used for growing cabbage plants and carrying out soil-based greenhouse cultivation trials.

Organic trial field and tunnel

Since 2020, part of the field at the Muilshoek has been recognised as an organic plot. On this piece of 0.82 ha, we carry out research in organic conditions, as required by regulations. We also have a plastic tunnel greenhouse of 700 m² on the organic plot.

Mechanisation and automatisation

The field vegetable growing department was fully mechanized: digger, leek, lettuce and cabbage planter, cultivator, bed plough, leek harvester, harvesting truck, horticultural sprayer, fertilization systems for granular fertilizers and liquid fertilizers. Since 2010, all tractors and machines have been equipped with GPS steering. The tractor follows the exact track, and the fine steering on the machine guarantees accuracy down to 2 cm.

On the occasion of the new construction, the weather station of the RMI that used to stand on the grounds of the Research Station next to the auction was also moved to the Duffelsesteenweg and planted in the middle of the fields of the open area. The weather station was completely renewed, and the weather data were automatically recorded and retrieved via telephone by the KMI.

Plug and play: purification station.

The ResearchStation has extensive purification technologies that can be used in various set-ups via a simple plug-and-play mechanism. These include classic technologies such as sand and activated carbon filters, UV disinfectors, and ozone plants, … but also, for the sector, newer technologies such as ultrafiltration, active chlorine plant, peroxide dosing units, selective sodium removal with nitrate recovery,…

The plug-and-play system allows these technologies to be used for both greenhouse and open-air crop applications. For the latter, a particular container was developed so that these technologies can also be tested on location in trial fields or at growers’ premises and monitored and controlled remotely. The container has already been tested at the tomato company Primato.