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Timo Spruijt is 30MHz’s new CCO: ‘Together with growers and partners we innovate’


Timo Spruijt is 30MHz’s new Chief Commercial Officer (CCO). Together with 30MHz Timo wants to take big steps in innovating agriculture and simplify digitalization in the sector. “Growers and partners can use 30MHz to decide which information is valuable to their business.”

Ever since he was young Timo worked in agriculture. A sector that brought him all over the world. When he was 13 years old he began fluffing roses and from the age of 17 he is working full time in agriculture. After different jobs for growers and breeders he started working for Koppert Biological Systems as an international high tech-consultant 12 years ago. He moved to Mexico to become Kopperts commercial officer and stayed there for a few years. Then he returned to the head office in the Netherlands where he started working as a commercial manager in the Agri Division. 

“In that role I translated the technical aspects of the products to a pragmatic story for the customer”, Timo says. “While doing that I continuously kept the customers wishes and expectations in mind. I believe that everything you do in a business has to be aimed at your customers and that they will tell each other that you are the right company for them.”

timo spruijt

Timo Spruijt is 30MHz’s new CCO.

Now you landed at the digital side of agriculture. Why did you join 30MHz?

“I want to innovate. Technical innovation is a huge trend and has a major influence on agriculture. When I talked to 30MHz it all came together. This company has a unique and strong position which convinced me that I had to do it. Last year I started a global executive Master of Business Administration (MBA). In the first week we had to prepare a personal statement. I said: ‘I will innovate agriculture’. At 30MHz I will get the chance to do just that.”

What are your thoughts on technical innovation in agriculture?

“Agriculture is known for its ‘fingerspitzengefühl’ and the will to innovate continuously. The growers know what is most important for their crops and their business. By monitoring and automation you can get the maximum out of the grower and their suppliers. But if you get overwhelmed with all the new developments, it can be hard to process the information into something that improves your business.”

Which part is 30MHz playing in all this?

“As I said: the grower knows what’s best for their business. 30MHz can simplify things for them by translating digitalization to practical information. We see that growers have lots of equipment, information from different sources and get advice from different companies. That can be difficult. We ask the growers: ‘What do you want to know and what do you want to learn?’ Well using the 30MHz platform you can see just that. 30MHz doesn’t take sides and the platform evolves together with the growers and their partners. The partners of growers are our partners and we would like to connect their future systems to our platform. The grower decides what is valuable and which information he needs. He is in control and decides who can see his data. On the other end there are partners that offer their data on the 30MHz platform. This way they can provide solutions for growers who have more complex questions. Together we innovate the sector.”

What do you expect of the years to come?

“30MHs is not just a platform for existing features, but also for the coming aspects. The development of precision growing, drones and robots combined with the public demand for a more transparent and responsible way of growing, will create a wave of information in agriculture. 30MHz is able to support this in real time. Not in the form of overwhelming wave of information, but a summary that is relevant to you. This way 30MHz can be the centre of knowledge sharing, while the growers and their partners keep developing in their own field. It is my dream to help growers on all continents to implement this innovation and to transfer knowledge into action. Together with them I want to make a difference. To get back on my earlier statement ‘I will innovate agriculture’, starting at 30MHz is the first step in that mission.”

Three platform features that can be beneficial during winter time


As a grower you want to keep up with all the factors that can influence the climate in your greenhouse. There are multiple features within the 30MHz platform that can help you visualize valuable information during the winter. We’ve listed three features that can help you in the colder months.

Weather forecast

The days are getting darker and temperatures fall. Of course the weather is a key factor in your greenhouse and you want to know precisely which temperatures you can expect. That’s why we’ve built a weather forecast on our platform, so you can get detailed predictions on the expected rain in millimeters, the wind speed, global radiation and many more factors.

The weather data can be specific for a certain location. This is based on coordinates that you provided as a user of the 30MHz platform. You can add a virtual weather station for every location in your network.

It’s also possible to check weather data of periods in the past. The data can be traced back to the moment that your virtual weather station was created.

If you would like to monitor certain weather circumstances with extra caution, it’s advisable use an alarm. An example: if you’d like to know when the temperature drops below the freezing point, you instantly can get a text message or an email via the platform. This way you can act fast and with more accuracy.

Read about how to view weather data in your dashboard:
https://support.30mhz.com/hc/en-us/articles/360012300958-How-can-I-visualize-weather-data-in-my-dashboard- 

 

An example of weather data in our platform.

PAR

For some companies it’s important to keep track of how much light the crops are getting during the darker months. Sometimes it’s necessary to put in some extra hours of artificial light. How do you monitor this data?

Of course you need a PAR sensor. This device monitors the strength of natural light and can be used to measure PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density) in agricultural environments. In the 30MHz platform you can visualize the data collected by this sensor.

There is a wide variety of measure units that can be used. It’s not always clear which metric should be used to get the right visualization of your data. No worries, we will help you out. In this article we explain how to apply the right PAR metrics.

Cultivation specialist Leo van Uffelen uses PAR data on a daily basis and made some nice visualizations in his dashboards: “It is important to have a weekly dashboard that visualizes the data per day, as a day can never be the same. This can be visualized with a bar chart. If the weather is changing and for example the light intensity decreases, you can decide to change your screening strategy.”

Van Uffelen wrote down his insights and shows his PAR dashboards in this article.

Chill units

As the name suggests, the Chill Unit widget can be very useful in winter time. Chill Units (CU) are generally used for fruit bearing trees and flower bulbs. Fruit-bearing trees need a period of cold weather after which a fruit-bearing tree will blossom in spring. Flower bulbs need a certain period of cold to sprout or bloom as well. 

So to use of the CU widget is ideal for companies that grow fruit or flower bulbs. You can see the feature as an option in the Growing Degrees & Chill Hours application.

CU represents the time of exposure to cold temperatures. To calculate the CU you need to insert a threshold value. For example: if you set the threshold on 10 °C, the feature adds up all the hours below the threshold. Did the fruit trees spend enough time in the cold temperatures? Then you will receive a notification and you know exactly when the flowers are ready to sprout.

Andreas Lypas works as a cultivation manager at Castleton Fruit and he keeps track of the CU while growing strawberries and raspberries. He says the CU widget is a complement to his work: “With no extra effort, all the data appears in my dashboard. With these data, I can precisely analyse next year’s crop of soft fruits and stay focused on other job tasks. I can still evaluate the data and have a global perception of winter temperatures.”

How to use the widget?

For users of our service model it’s easy to set up the widget. In this article we explain step by step how to use this feature.

Need some extra information? In this video our product owner Mirjam Bekker tells you all about the widget en how you can use it:

Using crop level data to optimise IPM strategy


Ant Surrage works as a Technical Development Specialist for Fargro. In this article he explains how collecting and visualising crop level and crop walk data can be helpful with the optimisation of an IPM programme.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is now becoming a mainstay of crop protection. However, although our pest management practices are integrated rarely are our datasets. I regularly see growers have several different spreadsheets collecting and storing metrics. To truly unlock the potential of that data it needs to be centralised on a platform and visualised in a way that creates new actionable insights to optimize IPM performance.

There is great value to collecting many different data sets but the two most important from my experience with growers has been microclimate crop level data and detailed crop walk data.

The crop level data gives us a more valid metric to base decisions on. The environment within the canopy or on the underside of the leaf can be profoundly different from the surrounding growing environment. This is also measuring and monitoring the areas where pest and disease will develop. This intern means that any decision support dashboards created will be more representative of the crop and lead to better decision making.

Secondly, crop walk data is hugely important as it gives a historic perspective that allows for further refinement and specification of an IPM programme. It is useful for the team crop walking to have an agreed protocol and a mutual understanding of how to score pest and disease pressure. We often see growers score on a scale of 0 – 5, where 0 is no presence and 5 is a severe infection. Ensuring that everyone is scoring a 3 is crucial to make sure data sets are reliable.

Using 30MHz’s data platform and the manual data input function allows us to overlay, in widgets, pest and disease pressure against key environmental metrics such as temperature and humidity. Working with grower groups over the last two years we have been collecting the data and looking for patterns in conditions that may explain the pest and disease increases. Using these widgets and Growing Degree Hours/Growing Degree Days functions we have been able to support growers in improving the timing of their applications of biocontrol and biopesticides.

Understanding and visualising high-risk conditions for disease development has meant that growers have been able to adjust their cultural practices such as spacing, screening and venting. This reduces the risk of disease and can push infection back, which can save on applications of controls measures, saving money but perhaps as importantly in the current approval climate maintain the number of applications for key chemical controls.

Ant Surrage shows his dashboard.

Data can be visualised via the widgets in the platform to recommend in real-time what IPM control measures will work most effectively. The best example of this is biopesticides. Biopesticides tend to be based on living organisms and as such have adapted to inhabit certain environmental conditions. Environmental data can be presented in a way that lets a grower know if the temperatures and/or humidity are correct for an efficacious application. Taking this into account growers and advisors alike can have confidence that the environmental conditions will not be a limiting factor in the efficacy of that IPM input.

To summarise, collecting, centralising and visualising crop level environmental and crop walk data can allow for the optimisation of an IPM programme at every level from cultural and hygiene measures to the application of biopesticides.

Break the state of winter recess with the Chill Unit widget


Chill Units (CU) are generally used for fruit trees and flower bulbs. Fruit-bearing trees need a period of cold weather after which a fruit-bearing tree will blossom. Andreas Lypas, propagation manager at Castleton Fruit, explains how he uses chilling units to prepare for winter.

Chilling requirement is the number of effective chilling hours needed to restore bud growth  potential in spring. Chilling refers to the requirement of low temperature to allow normal growth in the following spring. Not getting enough winter chilling results in a decline in both yield and fruit quality.

The chilling requirement is usually measured in terms of numbers of hours, during which  temperature remains at or below 7°C during the colder months of the year. Getting enough winter chill makes sure that latent buds can break the state of winter recess and begin growing during the spring. Measuring chill units can make a huge difference in yield quality of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries and peaches.

You can use the Utah model to measure the chilling requirement. This model contains a weight function assigning different chilling efficiencies to different temperature ranges. It also weights negative contributions by high temperatures. The Utah model defines a chill unit as the permanence of the buds for a period of 1 hour in a temperature range considered optimum (2.5-12.5°C) to accumulate chill.

The Utah model is more complex because it introduces the concept of relative chilling effectiveness and negative chilling accumulation or chilling negation. According to research temperatures between 0°C and 16°C  promote the breaking of rest whereas higher temperatures negate such effects.

Maximum promotion occurs at 7°C ( 1 hour at 7°C = 1 chill unit). Higher and lower temperatures within the range of 0 – 16°C are less effective.

The Utah Model can be used to measure the chilling requirement.

Unfortunately, that means that growers need to keep an Excel file and update it every day. That needs a lot of effort and labour time and cost. Luckily, I found the Growing Degree Units & Chill Hours widget in 30MHz’s platform.

I’m finding the widget extremely useful and I can still see the process in real time. With no extra effort, all the data appears in my dashboard. With these data, I can precisely analyse next year’s crop of soft fruits and stay focused on other job tasks. I can still evaluate the data and have a global perception of winter temperatures. After evaluating the low winter temperatures, I chose to grow the best suitable cherry variety. With a complete picture of the Growing Degree Hours, I achieved precision farming and optimised crop yields.

How Andreas Lypas is measuring Chill Hours in the 30MHz-platform.

What’s very helpful about 30MHz’s sensors and platform, is the accuracy of the data, the transport and the immediate traceability. The calculation of chill hours in the dashboard is done by counting the hours below a certain threshold, which the grower selects and has a graphic representation of evolution.

Helpful and insightful papers:

How a flower grower uses data to improve the cultivation process


Using sensors to measure the temperature of the leaf or check if you marked the dew point right. Growers can use 30MHz technology to improve their cultivation process at a high precision level. Nico Plasmeijer, Cultivation Specialist at BB Plant in Bleiswijk, uses the data platform on a daily basis and explains how he utilises data to improve his cultivation process.

At nursery BB Plant, they are growing Calla’s all year long. The plant is also known under it’s name Zantedeschia. “Together with the owner Bram Breugem, I’m responsible for the cultivation”, tells Plasmeijer. “This is a small company, so you need to know a a little bit about everything. That makes the job more challenging and exciting. What appeals to me as a grower is that our product is finished in three months. I see this high turnover rate as an advantage. If you have a good product, then the greenhouse looks good for three months. If the quality is somehow a bit off, it will only last a few months. Fortunately, it generally goes well.”

Plasmeijer has a lot of experience in floriculture. He feels it’s becoming increasingly important and also easier to use data in his daily work. “We use an older climate computer. Within the company we have four departments and in each location we have a measuring box. This is where we collect data from, such as the temperature and the moisture deficiency. We use these insights to control the greenhouse. But it doesn’t tell us everything. We wanted to get a better understanding of our crop’s health and environment, and decided to start collecting and analysing more data with the use of 30MHz technology.”

After using the data platform for a year, he has really noticed the added value it brings in finetuning the cultivation process. “Whether the plant is doing well or not, we can turn our precise and real-time data into actionable insights. We cannot do that with our climate computer. With the platform, I can make beautiful graphs and charts. It takes a bit of practice, but it does pay off. The layout is nice and clear. I don’t have to visit the greenhouse as frequently anymore, I can easily check how things are going from the comfort of my home.”

‘We thought we tackeled the dew point’

Plasmeijer says the dew point is a good example in which the platform of 30MHz helped him. The dew point is a huge factor in BB Plants greenhouse, because it is important in the prevention of mold. “After we water the plant, we use a strategy for aeration and heating. You have to dry the garden a certain way to prevent the plants from getting too wet. In 30MHz’s platform, we can see the exact dew point. We always thought we had ‘tackled’ the issue of the dew point, but the data showed us that we were staying too close to that dew point for too long.”

The measuring of the leaf temperature is another big advantage according to Plasmeijer. “First we just saw the temperature of the greenhouse, but now we can see exactly what the temperatures of the plants are. That’s what I mean with finetuning. First you collect data and then you act accordingly.”

Plasmeijer likes to experiment with sensors to obtain more data on a precision level. Another example: “After we water the Calla’s, we cover the plants with plastic. We never knew exactly what was happening underneath the plastic. Now we have placed a sensor under the plastic that tells us how we can best heat up the greenhouse to create the perfect conditions under the plastic. We are very happy with this data. But only collecting data is not the answer. You have to know how to translate it into actionable insights and learn how to work with it. That’s what we are doing now.”

Plasmeijer shows the colorful calla’s in his greenhouse.

Dutch horticulture gets big compliment from David Attenborough


David Attenborough’s new film ‘A Life On Our Planet’ (that feels like his final tribute) just released on Netflix. In his film, he gives a big compliment to the Netherlands and the Dutch horticulture sector in particular. “Dutch farmers have become experts in getting the most out of every hectare. Increasingly, they’re doing so sustainably,” he says. “It’s entirely possible for us to apply both low-tech and high-tech solutions to produce much more food from much less land. As we improve our approach to farming, we’ll start to reverse the land grab that we’ve been pursuing ever since we began to farm.” View a clip of the documentary below or, better yet, watch the full movie here.

Our little country is a frontrunner when it comes to horticultural innovations and we’ve made significant steps towards a more sustainable food production system. Largely thanks to our increasing technology-based approach towards food production, using a combination of engineering, plant science and computer-managed technologies to optimise production efficiency.

With this knowledge, we can contribute to much-needed collective solutions to global environmental challenges. So, let’s continue to innovate and share our knowledge with the world!

Next steps in digitisation for Delphy


Data platform supplier 30MHz and research and consultancy company Delphy have entered into a partnership. In addition, Delphy uses the data platform as an analysis tool among its consultants and researchers while at the same time co-developing cultivation-related applications. These in turn will be available to all users of the platform in an app store-like environment.

The collaboration ensures that Delphy will digitise more quickly. Consultants are getting more and more opportunities to assist the grower in improving cultivation. For 30MHz it is the next step towards a rollout of the platform within horticulture.

The first application to be hosted on the 30MHz platform is the Delphy Climate Profiler. Within this application, knowledge of Delphy is translated into an application that provides real-time cultivation advice. The application was developed and used during the Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge last spring, and has now been tested at a number of horticulture companies.

Aad van den Berg, manager of Delphy Digital, is pleased with the collaboration. “The collaboration actually started four years ago on a project basis. And it was intensified by the Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge. In it we developed the system to control the climate data-driven. The special thing is that 30MHz is not familiar with horticulture Their knowledge and skills are complementary to what we want to achieve in our digitisation strategy. This enables us to remain independent and reliable. ”

30MHz CEO Sytse Zuidema says he is proud of the collaboration: “We have both invested a lot in the relationship. That has led to trust and ultimately in a contract. Delphy is a huge knowledge company. And they will use increasingly detailed information to determine the cultivation process. As a result, growers can run more production with fewer resources. And what 30MHz adds to this future of growing, is enabling growers to take that process further via a platform.”

About Delphy
With over 240 cultivation experts, Delphy is the knowledge company for entrepreneurs in all plant sectors; if there is a leaf on it, we know about it. Continuously developing knowledge and making it applicable, nationally and internationally is our DNA and is Delphy’s main activity. Our experts contribute to the results of our partners with expert and independent research and advice, based on our own knowledge development. Delphy’s strategy is to continuously develop and apply cultivation knowledge and methods.

In case you have any questions, please send us an email via contact@30mhz.com.

Did you already add these ten horticulture influencers to your feed?


The world has changed completely in recent months. And especially the way in which people communicate with each other. It has been almost completely digitised, and that has a major impact on daily life. Online (social) media are more than ever the place to start a conversation. For example, to catch up on the latest corona measures, celebrate your family’s birthday or just have a coffee chat.

Horticulture is also increasingly finding its way into the digital world. The ecosystem of growers, advisors, distributors and researchers supports each other through tools such as Zoom, WhatsApp and WeChat. Major fairs such as GreenTech are switching from offline to online events and every self-respecting company organises webinars to keep the target group informed of the latest developments. We also see a steady increase on our platform when it comes to discussing and analysing crop data.

We can imagine that in this growing mass of information it is difficult to keep track of which matters are relevant to your company and horticulture itself. Fortunately, there are a lot of interesting people active who filter this information for you and share it with you in a pleasant way. The only question is, who are these people that help you stay updated in this fast-changing world. That’s why we’ve shortlisted ten influencers we believe should appear in your daily feed:

Rob Baan

The undisputed nestor of horticulture. He was one of the first to ring the alarm when corona threatened the horticultural sector. Koppert Cress himself had almost died in the crisis, but remained afloat with art and flying work. Baan has argued for years that society should live healthier, based on healthy and high-quality fruit and vegetables. The entrepreneur is regularly invited to television programs such as Dream School, is a well-known speaker and is very active on channels such as Twitter and LinkedIn

Ben Bardsley

Ben Bardsley is Rob Baan’s British counterpart. As the owner of one of the largest top fruit growers in Great Britain Bardsey – England, Ben regularly comes to the fore to encourage the (English) population to consume fruit and vegetables. Bardsley distinguishes himself with his characteristic vlogs that he records while walking or driving through the orchards.

Jasper den Besten

Jasper den Besten has been a lecturer at the HAS University of Applied Sciences in Den Bosch for many years and is a well-known face within the sector. Despite the fact that Den Besten himself is not very active on LinkedIn and Twitter, he shares strong insights through a regular column in the magazine and on the Onder Glas website. Earlier this year, for example, he warned against a lag in growth markets such as the Chinese, and the implementation of robot technology.

Chris Higgins

As the owner of Hort Americas, the American branch of HortiCoop, Chris is the guiding light for growers and growers who use greenhouses or polytunnels. Higgins keeps a close eye on all innovations and makes direct connections with concrete projects where possible. He has experience with LED lighting, knows everything about different substrate types and is paving the way for AI-controlled cultivation.

Cindy van Rijswick en Arne Bac

Van Rijswick and Bac work at Rabobank as respectively Expert Fresh Produce and Sector Specialists. Both are very active on LinkedIn and regularly share their findings in the field of vegetable, fruit and flower cultivation. Recently they were a guest in one of the 30MHz webinars entitled “Sustainable rendering in horticulture”.

Hannie Moors-Swinkels

There is a strong partner behind every horticultural entrepreneur, and that is especially true in the case of pepper nursery Moors. Rob is more than supplemented in the daily management by Hannie Moors-Swinkels. On her accounts she claims to give “color to paprika” by updating the corporate accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn with interesting content.

Rene Beerkens

From his position as Horticultural greenhouse consultant at climate computer builder Hoogendoorn, Rene Beerkens has a central role in the Plant Empowerment movement that has established a firm foothold in recent years. Beerkens was also one of the driving forces in the team that won the Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge, team AuTomatoes. Beerkens is very active on LinkedIn and is regularly featured in the press.

Ant Surrage

Fargro is an agricultural supplier in Great Britain. Ant Surrage is one of its most famous collaborators. He’s a technical development specialist who specializes in Integrated Pest Management or pest and pest control. This relatively young face in horticulture has an infectiously enthusiastic way of explaining to growers and growers the benefit of data at crop level in optimizing your IPM strategy, as you can also see in this webinar.

Wessel van Paassen

The uncrowned Prince of Horticulture Wessel van Paassen knew what he wanted from a young age: his own company. As the son of a chrysanthemum grower, he knows all about the ins and outs of a greenhouse company. He has a strong opinion about the future of the horticultural sector, which he believes should be data-driven and integrated as much as possible with production-enhancing technology. An opinion that he has been able to express in many interviews in newspapers and on television. In this interview, Wessel explains what his company Green Simplicity contributes to that vision.

Angel Angelov

Eighteen years ago, Angelov emigrated to Great Britain to grow into a knowledge base for strawberry growers worldwide. He is a Glasshouse Manager at Beeswax Dyson Farming and is currently working on building the most sustainable strawberry greenhouse ever. In addition to being a champion for renewable energy, Angel regularly fills his LinkedIn timeline with beautiful photos of nature and of course greenhouses.

Cultivation variables explained: growing degree units


In this blog, we would like to tell you something about growing degree units (GDH / GDD). The reason we added this to our dashboard is that during a lot of conversations our users often ask for this. Degree hour insights are used to pro-actively control cultivation. Growers however indicate that the calculation is time-consuming because it’s done manually and is only available on their PC on which the calculation is performed.

Growing degree units already is a proven concept. What is new, however, is that you can now view this metric in real-time on the 30MHz platform. Even if you are in the middle of a crop walk. And you can combine this information with the insights of all your other crop level data.

Calculating growing degree hours and days

But what exactly are growing degree units? GGH or GDD are calculated based on temperature and used to predict the development of plants or insects. This way you can estimate when your crop will be in bloom or assess how pests or your IPM is developing. You basically optimise the timing of your crops or biological pest control.

We use a threshold value when calculating degree units. The threshold value is the temperature below which you do not expect crop development. This threshold value is specific to a crop or pest. For degree hours you use the average temperature of one hour. For degree days you use the average 24-hour temperature. You subtract the threshold from the average temperature for the calculation, if it is 0 or lower you have 0 degree units. If your average hourly temp is 2 degrees above your threshold, you have 2 degree hours, and at 10 degrees above the threshold, you have 10 degree hours. Those degree hours are added together.

You can imagine that this can lead to a difference especially on clear cold nights during spring: if you use the average temperature of a 24-hour period, you may not exceed your threshold value. If you now calculate the average temperature per hour, you will see that you do not reach the threshold at night, but a number of sunny hours in the middle of the day can indeed exceed the threshold.

If you already work with degree days and have experience with this, I advise you to continue with this. If you are going to start using growing degrees now, use degree hours are easier to use and interpret, because this is more accurate.

Chill units

In the widget you will see that there is also an option for chill units. Here the threshold is not a lower limit, but an upper limit. You add the period below the threshold value here. Chill Units (CU) are generally used for fruit trees and flower bulbs. Fruit-bearing trees need a period of cold weather after which a fruit-bearing tree will blossom (also known as a vernalization requirement), as do flower bulbs need a cold period for sprouting or bloom. Fruit trees need to spend a specific amount of hours below a threshold temperature to break dormancy so they will flower and set fruit normally.

Chill units is the calculation of the period of cold temperature exposure. The calculation of chill hours in our dashboard is done by counting the hours below a certain threshold. [note, GDH counts the hour times the temperature above a threshold, CU counts the hours below a threshold] During the cold temperatures the plant and flower buds are in a dormant state until they have accumulated sufficient chilling units (CU). When enough CU have accumulated, the flower buds are ready to grow in response to high temperatures.

How you set up the widget

If you use the service model of 30MHz, it is easy to set up the widget for GDU. To do this, navigate to “add widget” at the top right of the dashboard. You will find the widget at the bottom, after which you have to fill in a number of fields. In the video at the top of this blog, our colleague Mirjam Bekker explains in detail how to do this.

 

Autonomous growing is no longer a far-fetched dream


The Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge has come to an end and we made it to the finish line. Our multidisciplinary team of horticultural experts and computer scientists from Delphy and 30MHz grew healthy cherry tomatoes remotely in 6 month’s time. In this period, we were able to develop the system and models needed to control a greenhouse remotely.

This morning, the jury announced the winner and gave feedback on how team The Automators performed. “With an ambitious strategy, this team applied a realtime data model using additional data sources such as sap flow sensors. Their realistic approach includes a step by step process in which the role of humans gradually declines and autonomous growing takes over. It’s remarkable that this team is already applying lessons learned from the challenges in real life and has explored commercial applications of their approach”, says Leo Marcellis, head of the jury.

When revisiting the actual output of the crop strategy, Team Automators was on top of the game when it came to both production and brix, as stated in the charts below.

Three part model

The technology used to grow the tomatoes was based on a three-part model. First, we used Delphy’s domain knowledge to determine the ideal daily amount of light and additional heat demand, humidity and CO2 requirement. Then, using historical data from experienced Delphy growers, we looked at what the climate would be like during the day, under similar conditions. Finally, we have used several models that indicate what the configurations of the climate computer must be in order to achieve the desired climate from step two. These models can be data-driven (temperature) or determined based on domain knowledge (irrigation).

“Our main driver to participate was to be a part of the future of horticulture and the food production system in general”, says Daam Rutten, Data Scientist at 30MHz. “Although we are at the start of it, I believe autonomous growing has a huge potential, especially for countries that do not have the domain experts we have here. This also explains the involvement of Tencent of course. We are becoming more able to translate domain knowledge into software, and this has the potential to feed more mouths while using fewer resources (water, energy).”

First time growing tomatoes

For 30MHz, it was the first time growing cherry tomatoes in a greenhouse. “Luckily, we had an experienced partner: Delphy”, explains Flavia Paganelli, Co-Founder and CTO at 30MHz. “It’s really amazing to see that we, and all the other teams, harvested class A tomatoes. It may sound obvious, but the impact of the external weather conditions is big on the greenhouse climate, even in one location. We started in the cold grey December days, and the last part of the challenge in spring there was a lot of sun. This showed us how the learning needs to adjust for every type of climate. It’s important to collect a lot of data for that. In the same way it will be necessary to collect data in the different geographic regions where we will grow vegetables autonomously.”

“Models will also be different depending on the type of vegetable or fruit you are growing”, adds Klaas van Egmond, Cultivation Engineer at Delphy. “We’ve noticed there’s quite a difference between autonomous growing of cucumbers, during the first edition of the Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge in 2018, and tomatoes. Next steps are to make even better and more real-time calculations of growth and costs.”

The future of horticulture

30MHz aims on goal is to be able to make models for every grower based on their data. Amazon Web Services has helped to set up a scalable infrastructure to train, improve and host machine learning models for every grower. This means that the process meets two conditions: firstly, the data from one grower is not used for the models of the other grower and secondly, we are able to model a grower’s unique cultivation strategy.

Rutten continues: “Thanks to the challenge, we have a better understanding of the opportunities and (technical) challenges for customers with regard to autonomous and data-driven growing. And our relationships and collaboration with Delphy have strengthened over the past year. Combine these two, more understanding and better communication, and we are able to create better products for our customers at a higher speed.”

Paganelli agrees: “We will apply our learnings to the seven pilots we have running with Delphy customers worldwide, in the Netherlands, UK, Middle-East, Russia, China and Japan. For us, this project didn’t finish here, but it just started.”

“Right now, we are evaluating with these customers what their experiences are up until now, and together with the experience of the challenge, we will determine what the focus should be for the coming period,” says Van Egmond.