Get to know the Research Center of Cajamar: “Las Palmerillas” Cajamar Foundation

Cajamar Foundation is a Spanish non-profit foundation created by Cajamar cooperative bank in 2006 with the aim of creating knowledge and disseminating it to the whole society. The research activity is carried out in the Research Center located in Almeria (Spain). It is dedicated to the benefit of society, the agri-food sector and especially growers. It conducts agri-food research and knowledge dissemination in order to promote the development of the agrarian sector and to improve the socioeconomic conditions in the rural environment. 

The Research Center is focused on the development of new technologies and the search of alternative productions for Mediterranean greenhouses, keeping always in mind the sustainability of the greenhouse system, both in terms of resources (water, nutrients, energy, etc.) and waste management. The research activity is divided in four departments: Agri-Sustainability, Greenhouse Technology, Food and Health, and Bio-Economy. Furthermore, there is a horizontal department for Dissemination.

It is in constant communication with the different stakeholders of the greenhouse industry, from growers and technical advisors (through the cooperatives) to greenhouse-related technology manufacturers, as well as with other research centers throughout the world. Dissemination activity is a core objective, and it is carried out through the publication of technical documents (which are free-available in the following webpage: http://www.plataformatierra.es/ and http://www.grupocooperativocajamar.es), the organization of transfer activities across the country (more than 100 with almost 8,000 attendants) and attending to the visits in the Station (almost 3,000 visitors). The Research Center is involved in both public and non-public research projects, it has participated in more than 40 projects in the last 10 years.

The Cajamar Research Center has a total surface of 14 ha, of which 2.7 ha are occupied by 28 greenhouses and 8 ha are dedicated to fruit crops. The rest of the surface is occupied by other infrastructures (buildings, ponds, lanes, conference rooms, irrigation systems, drainage lysimeters, climate stations, etc.). One greenhouse is sown with perennial grass and has two drainage lysimeters and a climate station to determine the reference evapotranspiration (ETo). There is a laboratory for chemical analysis, another for bio-productive controls and a third one for bio-technology studies.

One of the main lines of work of this Research Center is the improvement of the sustainability of agricultural production and the use of digital tools that help farmers to make decisions and improve agricultural production systems. 

In this sense, projects such as FAIR share, iGUESS-MED and SmartProtect, are projects whose main objectives are to help agricultural advisors and farmers make decisions, providing tools and services that allow more efficient management of crop fertilization, as well as preventing crop pests and diseases. 

Pest and disease management is one of the fundamental pillars of the European strategy for sustainable, efficient and competitive agriculture, based on the rational combination of the intensive use of digital technologies and environmentally friendly techniques such as biological control, innovation in crop management and the sporadic and localized use of authorized pesticides.

Alicia Mª González Céspedes

Alicia Mª González Céspedes is a Ph.D. Agronomist Engineer and researcher at the Research Center of Cajamar “Las Palmerillas”, currently one of her lines of work is improving the sustainability of agricultural production through the use of biostimulants and biofertilizers, we have worked on several projects on the use of microalgae in agriculture, but also in other types of bioproducts for this field and how they contribute to improving agricultural sustainability. Biostimulants and biofertilizers are used more and more and can help improve production practices.The agricultural objectives of the European Union for the year 2030 are established, we must reduce the use of agrochemicals by 50%, the use of fertilizers by 20%, and limit nutrient losses to 50%. Together with an increase in the ecological surface until reaching an occupation of 25% of agricultural land. And in this line, they have carried out projects such as Biorefina, Bacagro and Bioprim. 

The Cajamar Foundation participates in the ALGAENAUTS project, leadered by the biotechnology company Biorizon Biotech. The objective of this project is to achieve and validate the pre-commercial industrial production of biopesticide and biostimulant products for agriculture using seawater and wastewater as a source of nutrients, from microalgae strains with proven biopesticide and biostimulant activity.

The Cajamar Foundation, through its Research Center of Cajamar Las Palmerillas, will participate in the different activities related to crop tests (WP4), especially in real production conditions, in this case in greenhouse horticultural crops in the Spanish Southeast.

This WP4 focuses on the evaluation and general validation of the new line of biopesticides and biofertilizers developed in field tests with the final products already produced and approved.

The challenge is to demonstrate the activity of this type of product under real field conditions, studying possible interference with other products currently used in agriculture.

The desired activity of the selected strains grown under the established conditions, previous extracts and formulated products will be evaluated to ensure the maintenance of the biopesticide and biostimulant activity throughout the processing.

The final formulated products (biopesticides and biofertilizers) will be validated through field or semi-field trials under real growing conditions (horticultural crops in passive greenhouses). The field trials will be carried out in the facilities of the Research Center of Cajamar Las Palmerillas, where different types of greenhouses are available, all crop production conditions will be monitored.

In addition, the target products will be evaluated and validated with end users, such as distributors and farmers.

An important part of this project is the dissemination and transfer of all the results to all interested parties, farmers, producers, etc., as well as to society in general.

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