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Integrating the human element with manual input


Data is always most powerful when it’s combined from a variety of sources.
The more context you have available to you, the more informed your decision-making. Well documented, easy to explore information is always an asset, whether it’s validating tried and tested methods, providing extra support to a hunch, or creating the space for an experiment. Sometimes, we simply don’t know what we don’t know yet. Building technology for growers has made the 30MHz team appreciate just how many factors go into producing a healthy and economically sustainable crop. We know that a major role for a platform for digital agriculture is helping agribusinesses spot the relationships between these factors.

Augmenting knowledge

Sophisticated farming techniques and agricultural innovation have been around much longer than computers or the cloud. The most transformative among them have been tools that help human ingenuity and decision-making go further. We believe that to truly serve the needs of agribusinesses, a platform for digital agriculture has to help growers make the most of the insights available to them.

Two words: collaboration, and integration.

We’ve built a system that’s collaborative, and facilitates interaction around crop-level data, whether it’s expressed as a chart, heatmap, gauge or graph. With comments, tagging and groups we’ve made it easier for teams to exchange expertise, knowledge and observations on the crop conditions they’re monitoring. We’re bringing information together, and that includes the knowledge within teams that may not yet be recorded.

Integrating the human element

The agtech landscape is diversifying, and new digital tools are developing to help solve problems across the chain, and across niche sectors within agriculture. But while a great deal of relevant data comes from other systems (which we’re ready to integrate with), we know that there’s plenty of crucial information that doesn’t come from software or a sensor.

That’s where manual (input) meets digital.

Developing ZENSIE involves speaking to growers, and constantly learning about their challenges— and how they innovate to resolve them. Among the many things we’ve learned is that while agriculture is digitising, it still involves its fair share of hand-written notes. From pest observation during a crop round (or pest counting on sticky traps) to numbers on harvest or losses, key data is still recorded the old fashioned way. That doesn’t mean it should be siloed from other insights.

With the manual input feature, we make it easy to bring data collected the low-tech way straight into the ZENSIE platform, and interact with that data alongside crop-level data, or data from a climate control system. And, as with all other data in ZENSIE, users can share, compare and collaborate with colleagues. Growers in our community have gotten excited about manual input for scoring harvest, scoring pests and evaluating the effect of adjusted inputs on their crops. Consultants in our community have also pointed out the potential of manual input to digitise and standardise internal processes, through templates— one group in particular is excited about using standard forms for their advisory practice.

Have questions about manual input, or bringing agridata together? Get in touch below.

A clearer, objective picture: Madestein’s Jonathan Zwinkels on integrating climate control with 30MHz


Since it was founded by two husband and wife teams in 1982, Madestein UK has earned its reputation as a leading supplier of Leafy Salads and Herbs across the United Kingdom. The company currently focuses on growing whole head lettuce (round lettuce, curly leaf lettuce, red butterhead lettuce) and fresh basil and the propagation of young lettuce plants— all under glass.

At the forefront of innovative growing techniques for greater sustainability, Madestein UK specialises in hydroponic cultivation and employs a holistic growing method known as Integrated Farm Management, which emphasises the use of data to optimise water efficiency, improve crop nutrition and energy usage, and naturally increase resistance to pest and disease— all aimed at lowering the environmental impact of cultivation while producing yields of the highest quality. The company produces greens destined for some of the best-recognised names in the United Kingdom, including Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Lidl and Tesco.

We checked in with Director Jonathan Zwinkels on his experiences with the ZENSIE platform, and how it contributes to this holistic overview of his crops.

You were initially working with a climate control system, and then added and integrated the 30MHz platform. What did the 30MHz platform add to your crop monitoring?

We’re working with a Priva system to monitor on-site. What we’ve seen, though, is that working with a climate control system is geared towards growers focused on one particular type of growing, and one particular type of crop. At Madestein, we grow crops in a different way and have different needs compared to high wire cropping.  We needed to understand the various conditions of these crops to be able to steer them, and this was not possible using our existing equipment. We needed something that was flexible enough to look at a variety of metrics— dewpoint, VPD, microclimate. That’s where 30MHz came in, enabling us to really understand what each individual crop is doing, and to respond accordingly.

With the ZENSIE platform, I have the ability to get a quick overview of the glasshouse, whenever. I can check my dashboards right from my phone, and I don’t have to waste ten minutes logging into a PC.

Our experience of the ZENSIE/Priva integration was that it was fairly low effort on our part. We didn’t have to do a huge amount— it was quick, efficient and remote. We’ve seen a variety of benefits from bringing these data sources together. We’re able to cross-reference data (ex: VPD of basil leaf, or stress points on lettuce). We’re able to graph the VPD data we get through ZENSIE and understand it in the context of climate control, or ventilation positions. We can dig into the relationships between them, see the effects, and understand what needs to be changed to achieve our desired outcomes.

For example: we’ve received some high temperatures inland, and our lettuce was struggling as a result. We ended up utilising VPD as an indicator of plant activity and water stress. We’d amend different strategies, but it was this data that was giving us a clearer, objective picture of what we needed to do to reduce that stress.

How do you plan on working with this integration going forward?

We’re going to keep capturing data and working to understand more of the parameters that influence the crop. We’re working towards a greater understanding of what the crop is doing rather than what the climate around the crop is doing. We’re trying to figure out how we can steer the crop by looking at the crop, rather than trying to deduce that from how we assume the climate impacts the crop. Using the measurements directly from the crop gives us a stronger indication of whether we’re doing something right, we’re reading the crop rather than the climate.

Currently, we’re focusing on lighting programs, figuring out how to best monitor growth, when it’s time to switch from lighting to an unlit season, identifying which factors need to be taken into account— all depending on production profile. For us, it’s all about tying data back to those decisions.

Silos are for grain, not data


We make technology for agribusiness. And we’re as serious about the “agri” as we are about the “business,” because they’re inextricably linked. By providing technology to horticulture, we’re helping our customers orchestrate and balance nature, technology and the flow of information. Data-driven approaches to all aspects of growing crops, from cultivation to sustainability or pest management are crucial to the business aspect of agribusiness. Efforts to optimise resources, change strategy or adopt new technologies all have to make sense to the bottom line. They have to be a smart investment.

Speaking to our customers, partners, and the experts in our network, we see just how many factors can affect the success of an agribusiness. But it’s a sector that experiments, and discovers new links all the time. That makes sense— agriculture is, after all, science.

As such, it relies on the ability to explore information, and bring various sources of information together. As a platform, ZENSIE was built to make it easy for agribusinesses to integrate data, and augment decision-making with real-time insights straight from crops. Because it’s built with integration in mind, the agribusiness’ tech ecosystem can keep up with emerging agtech as well as evolving business needs.

From traceability to climate control, we’ve already seen a few powerful ZENSIE integrations, but it’s time to highlight yet another: augmented yield prediction. Growers tell us that forecasting is crucial: time is of the essence, and accuracy impacts business relationships, as well as the bottom line. Fresh4Cast uses artificial intelligence to improve productivity, increase margins and reduce waste for produce growers with accurate crop forecasting. Integrating data from 30MHz supercharges that yield prediction with real-time granular, crop-level insights.

Your AI’s only as good as your data

Fresh4Cast develops cutting-edge forecasting algorithms based on the data available to growers. But even the best algorithms are only as good as the data they’ve been fed. 30MHz is a source of highly relevant, accurate data, gathered remotely and continuously. By improving the quality of their data, agribusinesses can increase the impact of yield forecasting algorithms, thus helping optimise productivity and efficiency from cultivation to sales, and everywhere in between. Here’s how we’ve seen agribusinesses can benefit.

Gathering data is expensive (or, it used to be)

When it comes to data for AI, it’s about quantity as well as quality. The more data available to the algorithm, the ‘better trained’ it is. With 30MHz, wireless data capture (via sensors) is accurate and continuous. It’s also significantly less expensive than sending a team out with handheld devices to capture and monitor VWC, EC or pH. Plus, there’s no process of writing data down, transferring to a spreadsheet, paper file or local computer. Data is captured instantaneously, without the risk of human error, while human efforts can be concentrated on more value adding, and rewarding tasks. 30MHz significantly lowers the cost of data acquisition (collection and transfer), making it possible— and financially responsible— to collect more data points, and do so more frequently.

More accurate than manual collection

Let’s consider the following scenario: a grower pays an employee to measure 30 different compartments with a handheld sensor over a 9 month period. Let’s assume it takes 4 hours a day to collect a total of 60 data points, which then need time to be transferred. Let’s also assume a £10 an hour labour cost in UK. The cost is around 50p per metric. This can be prohibitively expensive for an agribusiness. But the cost of data acquisition doesn’t need to be so high. A 30MHz pointed microclimate sensor lowers the costs for data collection (and transfer and storage!) by over 98%.

Not only does measurement with the wireless sensor make data capture more frequent, accurate and consistent (a sensor can remain in one fixed location for however long is needed), agribusinesses have much more flexibility in where they monitor— even in difficult to reach places.

More powerful than data-logging

One soft fruit grower in our community deploys data loggers at each of several locations around the Kent area to better understand historical environmental conditions. While data loggers are an improvement on visual inspection or relying on weather data. But data logging is still significantly more work intensive, and less accurate or consistent than working with 30MHz tech.

At this particular customer, 4 people manage the deployment of data loggers. It takes about 2-3 hours to download data into a spreadsheet, clean the data of irrelevant data points (like measurements in transit.) That data is then manually transferred into another spreadsheet with a yield model.

It could take one individual around 2 days to complete these tasks, plus half a day transferring and augmenting data— including further potential delays in passing the information to sales. These time lags compromise data accuracy, and limit the impact of the model. Not to mention the cost of data acquisition. Data loggers are a step in making agriculture digital, but wireless sensor monitoring truly lowers the costs of acquiring data while improving precision, and the continuity of the feedback loop.

With ZENSIE, frequency of data collection actually increases savings.

Silos are for grain, not data

When data is siloed and difficult to analyse together, motivation for data-driven decision-making can suffer. One customer within our network has 5 greenhouses, each with a climate computer. Every week, an employee downloads the data from Priva into a dedicated report. This is then transferred manually into a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet generates analytics for the group for yield prediction, cultivation benchmarking and comparison purposes. Because manually transferring data is costly and time consuming, only certain metics like average temperature and daily CO2 measurements are transferred. This risks key insights falling through the cracks. And because the spreadsheet slows with each data point added, there’s little practical incentive for data contribution. With a platform like ZENSIE, data is stored in the cloud (as opposed to a local computer) and does not require manual transfer. The ZENSIE API makes it easy to connect new data sources and technologies, augmenting the power of each data set.

UK growers: let’s discuss

Besides being accurate and consistent, to truly aid in decision-making, data needs to be captured, stored and interacted with efficiently, easily— and without excessive cost. 30MHz will be joining Fresh4Cast at the London Produce Show on June 5-7. Join us for a chat, let’s discuss how quality crop data can increase value across your agribusiness, including in the essential task of yield prediction.

ZENSIE for crisis communications


ZENSIE is a platform built for collaboration around data. That means making it easy to work with a variety of data sources (sensor data, climate control, traceability insights) and making it simple and intuitive to discuss and explore that data with colleagues, wherever they might be. The ability to engage, together, on real-time and historical crop data remotely is a major boost for agribusinesses aiming for greater consistency across locations, for making the most of consultants’ expertise, and for leveraging knowledge within decentralised teams.

In a crisis, it can serve as a crucial lifeline for growers needing to communicate, exchange tactics and identify threats to their crops.

Digital collaboration when disease strikes

What happens when your crop is suffering, and a crop walk is simply not an option? What happens when greenhouses are on emergency lockdown— how do grower communities work together to avert a crisis? We’ve been hearing from tomato growers within our network across Europe concerned or affected by Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV), a newly emerging virus which can also affect sweet peppers, first identified in the middle east and now spreading to mainland Europe. Because the virus can spread so easily and rapidly— through handling, cutting and insect pollination— prevention requires strict and proactive measures. Identifying ToBRFV can be tricky. According to Royal Brinkman, a significant danger with this virus is that the damage caused by ToBRFV resemblance to the Pepino mosaic. As a result, it’s easily misidentified and overlooked. Collaborative identification, with the ability to compare and comment on images in real-time without the need for on-site visits can make the difference.

Protecting growers’ bottom line with digital agriculture

Not only is ToBRFV difficult to identify, it is currently not possible to fight. Once symptoms of infection (including mild to severe mosaic, discolouring on the leaves, leaf narrowing, yellow or brown crinkled skin) are visible, crops must be destroyed. According to the AHDB, the virus can affect up to 100% of stock, rendering it unmarketable. This can have significant economic impact on any grower, in any European country affected. In the United Kingdom, for example, the home production market value of UK tomatoes was £104.9m in 2017. As we’ve heard from our community, prevention is therefore a top priority— across the sector. In what one grower described to us as a “bit of a dawn of the dead scenario”, we’re proud to hear that growers across greenhouses and across regions are working together, exchanging data and experiences within the ZENSIE platform. As agriculture goes digital, “all hands on deck” can be increasingly global.

Tackling pests and disease in an environment that’s anything but uniform


Readers of this month’s edition of The Grower, the technical journal for horticulture published by the AHDB might recognise a familiar image: the pointed microclimate sensor from 30MHz. In a contributed article, Ant Surrage, Technical Development Specialist at Fargro, goes in depth on the importance of quality data when crafting an integrated pest management (IPM) programme.

Growers, consultants and researchers in the 30MHz community have been demonstrating the impact of data-driven IPM, and we’re excited to see our technology be a part of their fight against pest and disease. Ant’s article highlights the key reasons why real-time insights are central to protecting crops from threats. At the core is a reminder to agribusinesses to never underestimate the variations in their environment.

“Growers must recognise that it is likely their environment is not uniform. Hotspots, areas of high humidity and areas of damp will be key areas for pest and disease establishment. This should inform monitoring and preventative programmes, which will have knock-on effects on other elements of an integrated pest management (IPM) programme.”

A combination of metrics on environment and crop-level insights (including dew point, vapour pressure deficit/VPD, absolute humidity/AH, humidity deficit and the absolute difference between air temperature and dewpoint) are all viewable within the ZENSIE platform, and provide the detailed overview needed to fight the range of insects, fungi and diseases that can compromise crop development.

“For even greater detail, growers can monitor and understand the microclimate. The microclimate refers to the environment around a plant, this is often significantly different to the environment we feel when walking through the crop. It is necessary to understand the microclimate.”

Real-time and historical data on environment and microclimate can help agribusinesses identify the conditions that lead to disease development, and optimise the conditions for biopesticide effectivity– a win-win that conserves crops as well as resources.

In-platform collaboration can tackle industry-wide challenges


Here’s what we believe: to serve the horticultural sector well, an agridata platform needs to make comparing locations easy– whether those locations are down the road, across the country, or across the globe.

If you follow us on social media, you’re likely to have seen photos from a whole range of greenhouses and indoor farms working with 30MHz. From Scotland to Saudi Arabia, the American southwest to South America, Southeast Asia to Africa and Australia, we’re watching new agribusinesses come online daily. Many of them are brand new customers (we’re well in the 200’s now), some are additional locations of existing customers, and many come based on recommendations from within our community of growers.

Crop consistency is a must– data can help

Mapping the relationships between all the points on the 30MHz map of the world would yield an intricate web. Some are the same business in multiple locations, others grow for the same organisation, and others are different parts of the same chain. But there’s one thing all these customers have in common: however they might work together, and however far apart they might be, they prioritise crop consistency. When we chat about goals and expectations for their crop data, we hear time and again that our customers need consistent, uniform crops across their grow rooms, greenhouses and vertical farm locations. That’s where a variety of key metrics– and the ability to collaborate in real-time– becomes a game changer.

Going beyond monitoring for top quality crops

Every agribusiness has a slightly different recipe for success, based on the unique challenges it faces. But we’ve found that certain elements are crucial across the board: a solid approach to pest and disease management, a good understanding of microclimate, and an evidence-based irrigation strategy are just a few among them. But growers tell us it’s not just readings on CO2, temperature, humidity, light intensity, soil moisture, VPD, dewpoint, sap flow, stem diameter (we can go on…) that go into crafting a replicable and proactive approach to their crops. It’s the insights on their interaction and effect– past, present and future. To get the most applicable information from their data, 30MHz customers have the opportunity to leverage the experience and expertise of colleagues and peers whether they’re in the next grow room, across the country, or across the globe.

We’ve seen growers at Pinata Farms in Australia use the ZENSIE platform’s collaboration features to streamline the exchange of information with UK-based berry growers. We’ve seen Haakman Farms share real-time insights on breeding conditions between the Netherlands and Russia. And we’re thrilled to be part of the Royal General Bulb Growers’ Association (KAVB)’s “measure and monitor” pilot, aimed at bringing more transparency and data exchange to the bulb storage sector.

Interactive comments on graphs, and the ability to tailor what data is shared with custom permissions make it easy to collaborate and innovate to tackle industry-wide challenges. A collaborative platform can help turn local insights into global solutions across agricultural sectors.

30MHz in the news: KAVB data pilots


The Royal General Bulb Growers’ Association (KAVB) has just announced two data-oriented pilots, aimed at providing entrepreneurs with insights to improve business within the sector. The two pilots, “measure and monitor” and “track and trace” bring the benefits of digital agriculture to the association, which has about 1200 members, most of them bulb growers, bulb forcers and wholesale companies. The “measure and monitor” pilot focuses on the real-time tracking of temperature and humidity conditions in tulip storage on a shared KAVB dashboard– powered by 30MHz. Pilot participants can collaborate and share insights by viewing each others’ measurements and graphs, commenting on one another’s data and exchanging photos of their crops.

Read more info (in Dutch) on the pilots on the Bloemen Planten niews site.

Calling UK growers: this is the future of soft fruit


Next week, our very own Steve Archer will join speakers from VDH Foliekassen, CMW Horticulture, NFU Energy and Priva to share insights and experiences with forward-looking soft fruit growers who want to extend their growing season and learn how to implement the latest technologies for climate and irrigation control, energy saving and increased production.

Steve will cover the latest developments and future direction of the ZENSIE platform, and share the experiences of 30MHz customers who have used real-time crop-level monitoring to achieve results including the optimisation of irrigation, reduction of labour costs, improvement of IPM results, reduction of disease risk, concentration of frost protection strategy, and lowering of fungicide costs.

Join Steve and the rest of the speakers on Tuesday, 26th March at the Red House Hotel, Station Road Coupar Angus PH139AL

The day will begin with registration from 09:00 and close at 16:00. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Time permitting, interested delegates can stay on for a practical workshop with the technical experts. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis, so please confirm your attendance as soon as possible, but no later than Friday 22nd March.

Hope to see you there!

Your data is ready for its close-up


Well, it’s the start of a new year and we’re already zoomin’ through product updates.

First on the list: data zoom.

You can never get too granular with data exploration, so to make things a bit more detailed and easy to explore, we’ve added a feature to let you dive further into a set of data points in charts.

Simply click into your chart, click on the starting point you want to zoom into, hold down your mouse, and drag to your desired end point. Let go, and you’ll be forwarded to the zoomed view of your data.

It’s that simple.

Any questions? Ask away, we’re here to help.

Allow us to (re-)introduce ourselves


These days, we meet many of our new customers via social media.

We love that— it’s real, it’s conversational, and it’s to the point.

When we ‘meet’ a new customer over social media, it means that something we’ve shared resonates, and we’ve clicked with a member of our extended community.

That ‘something’ might be a customer story, behind-the-scenes footage from a deployment, a new widget or a sensor “in the wild.” But just as one wouldn’t rattle off a CV when shaking someone’s hand, we tend not to launch into a full product pitch on the spot (we find that awkward, and inappropriate.) The risk, of course, is that first impressions can be skewed slightly towards the subject matter we first connect on.  Those who haven’t had a chance to explore our website might assume we’re just a hardware company (our platform! we’re so much more than that!), active only in certain markets (we’ve got deployments across five continents!) or focus exclusively on certain crops (we’re versatile!)

It’s nothing a conversation can’t fill in the blanks of, but for the sake of clear first impressions, and as an update to those who may have known us in earlier days (we’re growing quickly!), here’s a recap:

30MHz provides growers with a flexible data platform

That’s ZENSIE. ZENSIE is a powerful, but user-friendly platform that makes it easy to construct dynamic dashboards for all your team members, expressing data your way. Track historical trends and observe data in real-time with heatmaps, gauges, charts, graphs and readings superimposed on your own maps, diagrams and photos. Centered around interactivity and collaboration, ZENSIE makes it easy to learn and work together remotely. Teams can share data, annotate with images or tag each other in ongoing conversations, managing facilities across the world on desktop, tablet or mobile.

It’s not just for growers

Sure, quite a few of customers are greenhouse and indoor growers. But ZENSIE has applications across the chain, including cold store, arable and retail. Our greenhouse and indoor grower customers are diverse, focusing on crops from microgreens to leafy greens, cucumbers to tomatoes, peppers to aubergines and a whole range of ornamentals.

Sensors are our main data source…

Wireless sensors, that is. Our engineers source and assemble the best sensors in the industry. We ensure they’re rugged, wireless and calibrated to fit your context. To get started, 30MHz customers simply select the sensors they need, select a gateway (the heart of the wireless network, available in ethernet or 3G versions) and some repeaters to guarantee connectivity whatever the physical environment.

…but our data sources are diversifying

Alongside wireless sensor data, 30MHz customers can view data on root zone, climate control, and traceability within the ZENSIE platform. They  can express that data via the full range of widgets.

We’re built for integrations

Customers have called our two-way API “elegant” and “just what we hoped to see.” Have a look yourself.

Deployment is DIY

Plug and play’s the name of the game. Sensors arrive preconfigured, so all it takes is unboxing your hardware, plugging your gateway into ethernet and power, and waiting a few moments. It’s easy enough for the technology-phobic among us to set up, but we’re here to offer guidance and support if you need us.

Scale is no problem

The 30MHz platform was built by cloud experts. At its core is an architecture designed to handle high volumes of data. A single gateway can support sensors into the thousands, so customers can feel free to start small (or go big straight away) and scale at whatever pace their project requires. It’s all up to the customer— new sensors won’t compromise the strength of the network.

Don’t pay for more than you need

There are so many reasons “agtech” can be intimidating: overly complicated interfaces, time consuming deployments, and of course, cost. We try to eliminate all these potential barriers to deploying 30MHz tech. As mentioned above, we fully encourage customers to start small, get comfortable with a sensor deployment, see how painless the ZENSIE platform is, and scale accordingly. This past year, when a certain research firm spotlighted us as a technology to watch in the IoT Platforms for Agriculture space, our pricing model was specifically mentioned. This meant a great deal to us, as we strive to keep our pricing accessible to agribusinesses of all sizes. Besides a one time hardware investment, 30MHz customers pay a monthly data processing fee per sensor. This fee is capped at 4 EUR (5 USD) per sensor per month— the price for a sensor measuring in real-time. If real-time granularity is not needed, customers can adjust measurement frequency per sensor within the platform, and have the option to pause and restart sensors with a single click. Customers pay for exactly what they need, and nothing more.

We’re serious about collaboration

Some might say obsessed. And with good reason— we continue to see the results, not to mention the potential and possibilities. You can comment on widgets, track ongoing conversations in feeds, and create and brand groups for special projects, selecting exactly which sensors pertain to the groups.

From general dashboards to groups, 30MHz customers can invite users and assign them specific permissions based on roles. Here’s the breakdown:

We’re constantly growing

At the rate our product is developing, we’ll continue to need updates, recaps and new feature descriptions regularly. Any questions? Just ask us, we’re here to help!