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Digital agriculture: an engineer’s perspective


By Flavia Paganelli, Director of Engineering and Co-Founder of 30MHz.

When I started working as an IT engineer in Argentina 20 years ago, I never would have guessed I would end up working on building a digital platform for agriculture. But I’m not surprised that 30MHz found its place in this industry. There’s just so much potential for growth and improvement here in terms of digital technology. It’s something I’ve become very passionate about. Why? Because we need solutions for sustainable agriculture and food production and we need them quickly.

It’s funny how things go, because 30MHz’s first entry in the world of sensors was, coincidentally, in agriculture. We started as a web monitoring tool and data platform, and we incorporated gateways and sensors to make it scalable and differentiating. Not long after we started, we came into contact with a vertical farming business, who wanted to add wireless sensors. This was also our first experience with data sourcing and management in agriculture, which definitely influenced our company’s strategic direction.

The agricultural sector is going through a technological revolution. A digital transformation is very much needed to tackle the sector’s sustainability and food production challenges. The UN warns that food production will need to rise by 70% by 2050 as the world’s population surpasses nine billion. Meanwhile, unstable weather patterns, inefficient growing practices, pests, diseases and food requirements and prices all contribute to large amounts of waste. And scientists expect crop losses to rise by up to 25% for every degree of global warming. Agriculture has a big impact on the environment. The sector is responsible for 70% of global freshwater usage and is the world’s second-largest CO2 emitter after the energy sector.

With the right technology and data, agribusinesses of any size can innovate to become more efficient and sustainable. Worldwide, agricultural and technological innovations are on the rise. But when you look at online data management and analysis, machine learning and artificial intelligence, it’s still pretty new. When it comes to monitoring, measuring and managing environments and crop cultivation, the industry has been using the same analog tools and technologies for decades.

A lot of these processes are still being done manually. Climate computers, for example, are important machines that offer key insights for growers through data logging and management tools focused on climate control. Next steps are being taken in developing ways to integrate with other monitoring and data analysis tools. Some growers spend several hours a day taking (manual) data readings from multiple locations. To then upload all this data in third party software or combine it in Excel spreadsheets, so they can use the insights to drive irrigation decisions, for example.

With big data solutions and wireless smart sensing technologies growers and farmers are now able to monitor and analyze climate, soil moisture, energy use, carbon emissions and crop levels in real-time and in one platform. For example, our data platform ZENSIE provides updates through graphs, heat maps and custom alerts on phones or tablets. At the centre of this is the grower, who will be empowered to grow more using less resources. Our customers are able to use less water, energy and fertilizer while optimising output.

30MHz is building a more collaborative data and technology structure to help digitalize the entire industry. We are a tech company, run by engineers. We know how to build data platforms and AI algorithms. We will never claim to be experts in growing food or plants. But I believe that market participants can reinforce one another by combining our skills and experience. Together, we can ensure a more sustainable future in agriculture.

Growing cherry tomatoes remotely


Together with Delphy and Wageningen University, 30MHz will be participating in the Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge this year as part of team Automators. The challenge is to grow a cherry tomato crop remotely in 6 months’ time. The tomatoes will not only be judged by their looks, but also by their taste.

We’re competing against 4 other teams that remained after the ‘pre-challenge’ in September, a 24-hour hackathon in which 21 international teams took part. From December onwards, WUR is giving us access to a greenhouse in Bleiswijk to start growing our cherry tomatoes remotely, with our own specially developed algorithms. During the first week of the challenge we’ll get one-time access to the greenhouse to install sensors, cameras and other equipment. After that, the doors will be locked for all candidates for 6 months.

Image result for automators delphy

12-09-2019 | De Automators in action during the pre-challenge

The cherry tomatoes should not only grow and flourish, but they also have to taste good. In order to influence taste and structure, we can adjust the nutrient composition and the EC. Next to that, we’ll have to think about crop specific aspects, such as how are we going to prune the cherry tomatoes? Which LED-spectrum will we use? There will be LED and SON-T lamps available at the greenhouse. The LED lights can be dimmed, switched off, or the whole lamp spectrum can be changed. There’s a lot to control and finetune.

You might be thinking, is it really possible to grow a cherry tomato crop remotely? Well, not 100%. There will be people present at the greenhouse who will take care of, for example, leaf picking and harvesting. We won’t be using robots for that. However, it’s important to note that these people can only do what the team instructs them to do. The team can send them instructions via a special app. So they can’t intervene on their own initiative, even when they see the crop is not doing well.

09-12-19 | The Automators meeting at Delphy

The goal of the challenge is to stimulate new developments and innovations in digital technologies for horticulture. Next to that, it also offers new insights into crop cultivation. There will be a control group of growers from the area, who will keep a close eye on the crops and the growing techniques that are being used. They can benefit from the crop information and learnings about data management and the use of digital tools, as they are able to apply them in their daily work. We’re very happy to see this growing collaboration between various disciplines. It creates synergy, which will help us further ensure a future-proof horticultural sector.

We’ve talked to Klaas van Egmond (team member The Automators), crop engineer at Delphy.

“During the challenge 30MHz and Delphy are very complimentary to each other. Where Delphy supplies the crop knowledge that is needed to develop these systems, 30MHz has the knowledge on how to engineer these systems and build the smart models that are needed.

How do you grow tomatoes remotely?

We grow tomatoes remotely by getting data from the crop and his environment. And use this data to create models to simulate the growth of the tomato plants. With this data and these models, we optimise the decisions we take in the growth process of the tomato plant.

Why is it important to digitise growing? How does it help the growers? 

I think it’s important to digitise the management of crop cultivation because there is an increasing demand for food and flower production and fewer people to grow it. It helps growers by using artificial intelligence to prevent mistakes, to increase their span of control and to optimise their input versus output.

How do you see the future for digital agriculture?

The future of digital agriculture will bring together the dream of very large and high precision growing companies. Besides that I believe that there won’t be agriculture at all without all the smart digital systems that are being developed now.

More information: www.autonomousgreenhouses.com

30MHz and Fargro partner with NextGen Fruit Group


Our partner Fargro Ltd, a leading wholesaler and supplier of commercial horticultural products, and 30MHz have become a co-sponsor of networking and education organisation NextGen Fruit Group, alongside its partner 30MHz.

The two companies will both become AgriTech Partners of NextGen, a pioneering group that provides networking, training and development opportunities for young people working in the fruit industry. Its goal is to develop a global community of bright, talented and motivated individuals, with the common aim of building a successful and sustainable future for the fresh produce industry.

Fargro and 30MHz have both committed to sponsorship for the coming two years. During this period they look forward to supporting the broad range of educational and inspiring events hosted by NextGen, such as knowledge-sharing visits to exhibitions and training facilities throughout the UK and the 2021 conference, to be held in New Zealand.

This sponsorship will support NextGen members to unlock the power of their crop data, ultimately resulting in better quality and higher yielding outputs. 30MHz’s cloud expertise will allow growers greater access to, and analysis of, their key crop data. This enhanced understanding of the various stresses at crop level empowers growers to predict and prevent pest and disease issues, and manage these more effectively using Fargro’s innovative and robust IPM programmes.

Dr Joshua Burnstone, Fargro Technical Director says “The synergies between Fargro, 30MHz and NextGen are clear, and together we are confident this collaboration will provide the next generation of growers with access to innovation and knowledge-sharing opportunities that will be of huge benefit to the industry as a whole.”

30MHz’s Antony Yousefian is “delighted to become a partner of NextGen, and excited about the opportunities that will open up via collaboration with some of the brightest, most forward-looking minds in the industry today.”

5 years of 30MHz – our CEO’s story


This month we celebrate our 5th anniversary and so much has happened since our founding. In this interview with our CEO Jurg van Vliet, we look back at 30MHz’s achievements and forward to what we aim to do for the agricultural ecosystem and the world.

How would you describe 30MHz in a single tweet?

30MHz provides a data platform to digitalize indoor agriculture. One platform with which we aim to digitalize the entire industry. Farmers and growers can create a digital representation of their environment and the industry itself (i.e. distributors, consultants, researchers) can digitalize their different products.

How did it all start and why?

30MHz started as a big data platform and we added sensors to collect the data. The founders of 30MHz, Jasper Geurtsen, Flavia Paganelli, Fleur van Vliet and myself, first founded 9apps together, which is a provider of cloud-based infrastructures. We started 30MHz in 2014. Flavia is my wife, Jasper is my best friend and Fleur is my sister. We’ve been working together now for at least 10 years.

At the beginning, we had customers from many different sectors, incl. smart office, smart industry and smart farming. But we found that we had the most impact in the agriculture sector, so we decided to focus solely on this industry and started to specialize our services and products.

What‘s the status quo and what have you achieved so far?

30MHz currently employs 35 people. We have more than 300 customers in more than 30 countries, in all continents but Antarctica. Our services and products are geared toward various segments of the indoor agriculture sector, from sophisticated Dutch greenhouses to polytunnels to vertical farms. It’s all possible. We are integrating our platform with different data points and sources from those environments, like climate control systems, irrigation systems and other third-party sensors. The next step for us is to elevate our multi-functional platform to digital agriculture, so that farmers and growers have a full and structured digital representation of their environments.

30MHz is growing rapidly and has recently received a large amount of funding. What are you currently focusing and working on?

We are currently focusing on shifting from just selling products to becoming a provider of services, tools and support for farmers and growers to digitalize their environments. We call this digital agriculture. We decided to move from a hardware subscription model to a services model. Meaning that customers don’t have to buy the hardware anymore. We will provide them with an all-in-one solution and the support that they need, including data from integration partners and the hardware necessary to achieve their goals. In order to offer the best possible solutions, we are looking for more and more integration partners. We want to help them further digitalize their business with our platform, so that we can offer more value and more simplified solutions to farmers and growers worldwide.

Where will 30MHz be in 2-3 years?

Well, the question is if we will still fit in our current office by then.

Our ambition is to digitalize the entire indoor agriculture industry. We feel that with this ambition we’ll have the most impact. In order to fulfill this ambition, we need to collaborate with every technology provider in the indoor agriculture industry to digitalize their products and services. So that our customers can use the digital versions of these products to optimize their business. To make that concrete, a grower has a climate control system, an irrigation system, pest management tools and strategies, a growth plan, etc., and all these elements of their operation are being supported by different tools and consultants. We want to bring everything online to take the industry to the next level.

We want to make it easy for every farmer or grower to start digitalizing their business, no matter where they start. They should be able to get the support and tools they need to make it happen. That’s why we are here. And that’s why we want to have every product category on our platform. We want to have the data of these different product categories working together in a more sophisticated growth model. In two to three years we should be able to offer ways to transform the low-tech environments into more high-tech. For example, a polytunnel grower should have access to simple digital tools to produce in a similar way as a Dutch style greenhouse grower.

Why is digitalizing the indoor agriculture industry so important?

By digitalizing indoor agriculture businesses and combining all data in one single platform, they will be able to work more efficiently and accurately. It will help them produce more of better quality with less input.

Many agriculture businesses are scaling up. There are a few big trends driving the need to scale up. One is urbanization and a second is rising income. Globally, more and more people are getting out of poverty. That means diets are shifting from low nutritious foods to high nutritious foods, with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables. So the demand for fresh fruits and vegetables is rising. A lot of which are grown in greenhouses. The more greenhouses there are, the more can be produced. With the right digital tools, indoor agriculture businesses can have one grower running three greenhouses in three different locations.

A third major trend is climate change. We face a threat on our existing system and there’s also the challenge of fixing what is broken. If you look at agriculture, it comes with a lot of problems that are not contained. Outdoor agriculture is directly influencing nature as we know it. If you go inside, you have a controlled environment. If you have a controlled environment, you can control what goes in and what goes out. Therefore, your impact on the environment can be much less. I believe that indoor agriculture is eventually better for our planet.

Data-driven seed and breeding industries: from fiction to fact


30MHz shows ZENSIE benefits during Seed Meets Technology

Seed Valley, an area in the Netherlands where numerous seed companies are located, is automating more and more processes. But there is still a lot to gain when it comes to digitizing the complete production line. The seed industry, which is known for applying the latest technologies, sees more and more opportunities in applying data validation. This should lead to a sector that’s more focused and efficient due to data based produce.

And that is more than necessary seen the current global food and climate issues. There is an immediate need to increase productivity while using fewer resources. The major role Seed Valley has in this, becomes even clearer now that seed breeder Simon Groot of East-West Seed has won the “World Food Prize“. He ensured that vegetables became available to local consumers in Southeast Asia by supplying growers with high-quality seeds.

“A process that starts in the lab,” says 30MHz’s Tim Busschops.“Specific actions are carried out which ultimately ensure that every seed produces a perfect plant. In practice, we increasingly see that lab rooms are being monitored with sensors. To avoid situations with improperly sealed freezers and stoves, for example.” A step further in the process, data-driven production is also very relevant. “Growing seeds and then being able to accurately determine why one variant succeeds and the other does not.Data collection and analysis has until now not only been expensive, manual and time-consuming, but also fragmented and localized. All elements that are being simplified by ZENSIE, the 30MHz data platform. “It centralizes all kinds of data and offers full insight into the climatic conditions of the produce,” concludes Busschops. For more information, interested parties can visit the 30MHz stand during Seed Meets Technology. Click here to register for free.

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.