Forest ecosystems are currently challenged by fluctuations in the climate and an extreme exploitation of their resources. Forest restoration requires among other things, high amounts of healthy forest seedlings to replace the lost trees. However, the cultivation of these seedlings often involves intensive methods in forest nurseries which consume considerable amounts of energy for lighting, acclimatization and irrigation.
The ZEPHYR project, funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), is developing innovative and cost-friendly technologies for the pre-cultivation of forest plants. Devices such as LED growth lights and a new generation of wireless sensors will be integrated into a functional and transportable system for large scale production of forest seedlings. The unit will have a very low impact on the environment, will be independent of the outdoor conditions and will be powered by solar energy. The whole concept represents a breakthrough in forest nursery production for reforestation purposes. It addresses issues such as energy use, water recycling, reduction of fertilizers and avoidance of pesticides.
One of the main features of the Zephyr incubator is the fact that the seedlings will be pre-cultivated during the first stage in an isolated environment. A transportable and closed incubator possess several advantages: it provides a better climate control for the production of seedlings and reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers. The closed-climate allows growing seedlings in places where it would not be possible otherwise (e.g. near deserts). The plants can be produced directly at the place where they are needed avoiding further transport to the reforestation/afforestation site. Additionally, it extends the production time throughout the whole year even during the winter. Moreover, it will allow a certified and standardized production of reforestation materials, with a noticeable increase in the success of the restoration actions.
In order to benefit from the advantages of a closed growing environment without having a negative impact on the environment, the incubator will be powered mainly by a solar photovoltaic (PV) system which will be mounted on the roof of the unit. In order to reduce the amount of air conditioning needed, the chamber has been isolated from the rest of the system. The growth protocols have been set to a certain temperature range that allows a more flexible operation of the air conditioning system without compromising the development of the seedlings. Finally, since the LED growth lamps do not produce as much additional heat compared to other lightning sources so there will be further savings.
Regensburg, Germany: Ostbayerisches Technologie-Transfer-Institut (Verlag) , 2015. 106-111 p.
6th International Conference in Solar Air-Conditioning - Rome, 24-25 September, 2015