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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.

Advancing UN Sustainable Development Goals with Digital Agriculture


Digital agriculture — digital and geospatial technologies to monitor, assess and manage soil, climatic and genetic resources — illustrates how to meet sustainability challenges within the agricultural industry. It can help balance the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable food and plant production. Digital agriculture therefore has the potential to advance many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are seen as the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Below are some examples of areas of application across the agricultural industry.

SDG 2: Zero hunger

  • Make better farming and growing decisions by supplementing local knowledge developed over generations with real-time, detailed, environmental
  • Increase yield per acre and reduce production loss to help improve food security and increase the food output, required to keep up with population growth.
  • Improve transparency and sharing of information. By providing quantitative data on factors that have been difficult until now to measure and interpret, farmers will be able to improve their economic Financiers and insurers can also better understand risk to protect agri- and horticultural businesses financially.

SDG 6: Availability and sustainable management of water

  • Waste less water through a better understanding of soil moisture, crop health and weather forecasting – provide only as much water to the plants as needed.
  • Reduce chemical use and run-off into local water

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

  • Give more power to those working in agri- and horticulture and support related innovations such as up-to-date pricing and trading – particularly the ability to facilitate trade without using intermediaries.

SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

  • Improve resilience and effectiveness of food and agricultural supply chains through better integrated systems and information sharing.

SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities

  • Enable more sustainable city growth through better waste management as a result of improved integration and monitoring across the food value chain.

SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production

  • Provide information which allows consumers to be more responsible.
  • Reduce waste through better decision making across the supply chain, using predictions of harvest yields and quality to improve planning.
  • Reduce waste in storage through improved planning and by linking agricultural sensors with transport management systems to reduce food spoilage.
  • Reduce the chemicals used, and improve long-term soil management through better planned crop rotations.

SDG 14/15: Life on land/below water

  • Reduce chemical run-off contaminating oceans.
  • Promote more sustainable land ecosystems through a more considered use of land and approach to forestry.

SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals

  • Allow companies to partner to increase the impact on all the SDGs through improved availability of information.

 

Source: Project Breakthrough (UN Global Impact) and PA Knowledge Limited

A conversation with: crop advisor Peter van Os


The work of crop advisors or consultants is often an underexposed subject in horticulture. Especially now, this branch of sport cannot be envied. The usual visits to greenhouses take place partly in a different form and going abroad is not possible at the moment. To discuss the situation of advisers in more detail, we spoke to Peter van Os. VAN OS research is regarded within its circles as the source of information for Phalaenopsis and provides cultivation advice and research for pot orchids.

Synergy with the grower

Van Os is clear about the added value of consultants: “I look at crops and cultivation processes with different eyes because I visit different companies. Though it’s not the case that I ‘pollinate my knowledge’. The grower always decides what insights he keeps to himself and shares with others, which I think is no more than normal. In that light, the 30MHz platform is an excellent example of how the grower is in control. One entrepreneur shares more than the other. I also see that with excursion groups. For example, within the cut flower industry growers share more info than pot plant growers do.”

“I work with my wife Tettie and our specialty is quickly discovering how the plant is performing. We are building long-term relationships with growers, in which I indicate the improvements that are needed to promote growth and blossoming. Together we look at the climate computer data, graphs with climate data, nutritional data and quality information. And we test certain institutions, for example, how cold damage could have occurred in that one corner of the greenhouse. With the COVID-19 situation, this process is more difficult. I also speak with companies via digital means such as Skype and WhatsApp, but I notice that I would like to have more information at my disposal. I have access to certain online data sources, but more data could be shared. Again, the grower determines what is available, but to some solutions are not being considered.”

Commitment makes a difference and Van Os works according a carefully set up process. “I look at how the plant advances, and discuss with the grower what settings they could change with regard to the climate and nutrition supply, or how it’s possible that there are too many single branch plants. It’s a matter of checking all kinds of variables until the problem is known; too warm, too light, etc.” Van Os notices that growers in general, COVID-19 or not, are very busy anyway and therefore regularly look over data or simply do not record any. “Climate computers are recording more and more data, and are therefore slowing down. A grower then thinks: this is taking too long and is less inclined to perform deeper analysis. Capturing manual data is also not always accurate, like for example the pH and EC, which are not measured or written down.”

International differences

There are undoubtedly international differences between growers. “Various growers find it difficult to indicate what is going well and what is not going well via online channels. They are not used to that, so there’s still a kind of digital threshold. What do you want to improve? is a difficult question for them. But digitisation, in general, is an issue. Especially now that I cannot visit growers abroad, I have to rely on photos and videos. You can often zoom in on photos and you will get a nice picture of what kind of bugs or plagues plants are hosting, for example. But actually, you want all that media in a central spot, next to the climate data, so you can explain what is going on there. There are all kinds of data up for grabs, but they still need to be visualised nicely. Crop walks will always remain a part of the job, but I can work more efficiently if I can delve into the large amounts of information at home prior to my visits. A data platform would provide the necessary structure. This is a precursor of how the advice will be given in five or ten year from now. It will be really different then. Consultants will probably proactively advise growers how they can best organise their data too.

Opportunities

Van Os also sees opportunities for growers who have multiple locations at home and abroad. “Orchid growers often have multiple locations and could share much more data with each other. This should happen more. Colleagues sharing data and insights within their own company. That is not the case now because there is often a cultivation manager per location who likes to design it in his/her own way. Companies are getting bigger due to growth or mergers. It is then more difficult to oversee and a challenge to display all data in a handy way for the management team.

Growing Degree Units

VAN OS research looks a lot at the nutritional application, various climate data from climate computers and sensors. The analysis is done according to the most common tools. “I often look at graphs and individual numbers, so that is not so exciting. What I really see is a need for is Growing Degree Units; temperature hours or temperature days. Now with this virus, it is important to delay cultivation until the market picks up again. But from an economic point of view, timing has always been important. It is about selling your trade at the right time, such as Mother’s Day, and growing degree days can help growers with this. Still, I often see that estimating when the plants are suitable to put for sale is often a guessing game. While the plant itself has long been sold through fixed agreements, it makes more sense that you keep track of this not only on the basis of previous experience but also on the basis of data, paying attention to leaf temperature and light hours. Knowing when to accelerate or brake is key.

Why we made some changes to customer support


To serve our users in the best possible way, we have changed a number of things with regard to our customer support. Our account managers are no longer the central point of contact for questions. We’ve set up an online FAQ, and assembled a special team that is ready to answer questions within 48 hours.

So how does this work? When you get to our support page, you’ll find a community for all users of our product. It contains all sorts of blogs that will help you get started or when you’re still orientating. It’s easy to get here. Just click on the “support” button on our website or search for an article via the chat at the bottom right.

Below that you will find the community part that features the most common issues that have already been dealt with. By us or by other users. The advantage of this is that in addition to 30MHz employees, you have a fast-growing group of users at your disposal who, together with you, quickly come to an answer to your problem.

Is your problem or question not listed? Feel free to contact us directly via the chat on our platform or website.

Why have we taken this step? Research has shown that 80% of companies (read: the people who work at those companies) prefer to solve a problem themselves in the first instance. Users find the answer to questions on the internet or in manuals provided for this purpose. That’s why from now on we will also apply this principle to the 30MHz platform.

If you have any questions, you know where to find us.

The 30MHz team

5 digital horticulture practices to bring into 2020


In the past decade we’ve seen the world go through a major digital transformation. And it’s still going strong, with innovations piling up in all industries including the horticulture sector. We do believe there’s still a lot of untapped potential when it comes to digital horticulture. What happens when horticulture goes digital and where do you start? Let’s look at five digital horticulture practices you could bring into 2020.

1. Gain more control by measuring and comparing different variables

Accepting data from limited sources gives growers only a small picture of what’s happening in their greenhouse(s) or tunnel(s). In order for growers to move beyond control as a simple risk management strategy and use control as a profit driver, control devices have to become connected so all horticulture inputs can interact. That’s the purpose of our data platform.

Angela Zwinkels from Zwinkels Agro B.V., a Dutch eggplant grower: “With the climate computer and 30MHz sensors, we measure the greenhouse temperature, humidity levels, CO2 levels, solar radiation levels and plant temperatures, and we monitor this in 30MHz’s data platform. A big advantage of capturing and storing this data in one place is the ability to compare insights and analyze the relationships between different variables. For example, we measure the effect of the solar radiation on the plant temperature and compare plant temperatures with greenhouse/air temperature to prevent condensation, which causes mold. This becomes more important as the season progresses.”

“When we notice unfavorable changes in our crops or data, we can act on it straight away and know exactly what to do. Thanks to 30MHz’s data platform and sensors, it’s very easy to trace back and eventually predict when, where and why something is happening with our crops. We can check what the exact climate circumstances and settings were and make adjustments accordingly,” says Angela.

Another great example is pepper grower Gubbels. They’ve successfully been utilizing 30MHz technology to drive profits and increased pepper production by 2,5%. Their ROI is 256.4% within a year, and 813.5% within 3 years, with a payback period of a little over 3 months. “With better monitoring, we’re seeing way less scalded peppers. Based on the data in 30MHz’s data platform, I am able to keep windows closed longer, and by doing so am able to keep more humidity and CO2 in the glasshouse without the temperature getting too hot,” says Geert Colbers, crop manager at Gubbels. “By using the Pointed Microclimate sensor, we experience less pepper scald and more production since screens can be kept open longer. I used to play it safe more often before working with 30MHz technology, now I feel I can experiment more, like letting in more sunlight to optimize profit from the sun.”

The platform and sensor technology are also popular amongst researchers. Our partner Delphy uses 30MHz technology in their strawberry test center, where they work on ways to achieve optimal temperature and conserve energy via screening. They’re using the Pointed Microclimate sensor to monitor fruit temperature. Every week, they combine and compare this data to the other climate data, such as data from their climate computer, to perform in-depth analysis. Tristan Balk, Researcher Improvement Centre at Delphy, says: “The 30MHz platform is very user friendly and offers lots of freedom and flexibility to create customized dashboards that provide the insights we need to run our tests.”

Just like growing vegetables and fruit, there are a lot of variables that come into growing flowers as well. Dümmen Orange, a leading company in the breeding and development of cut flowers, potted plants, bedding plants and perennials, knows the benefits of measuring these different variables. They measure light, temperature, humidity, air pressure, EC and pot moisture. Mostly to allow the plants to grow healthily, keep them as vegetative as possible and prevent flowering induction.

 

2. Combine climate computer and sensor data in one platform

Data-based horticulture is becoming increasingly important. The real-time monitoring of a crop can optimize crop strategy. That’s why BASF chose to integrate their Priva climate computer with 30MHz’s data platform, together with a range of wireless climate sensors. Rob Wouters, crop specialist at BASF, says: “This setup provides better insight into our cultivation processes and gives us a platform that visualizes all the cultivation data in easy-to-read dashboards. The various measurements are now easily monitored and paint a clear picture of the climate throughout the greenhouse.”

BASF found that making this data available is not only beneficial for productivity, efficiency and resource management, it can also assist in the education of new employees. “One of our challenges is ensuring continuity of knowledge and transferring this knowledge to new employees,” says Rob. “Even for experienced professionals our process of internal training can take years. With 30MHz tech and the Priva integration we are able to explain our cultivation processes and transfer this knowledge to new colleagues more easily and quicker.”

Pepper grower Jacco van den Ende has successfully integrated his climate computer data into 30MHz’s platform, combining ambient statistics with crop level data. Jacco: “I can now easily combine and compare data in various graphs. For example, we’re able to spot and understand changes in temperature faster and more easily. Which means we can also act on it quicker. Before, I had to use and check two screens, sliding my chair from one desk to the next. Now I just need one screen and dashboard, which makes the job a lot simpler. The platform also serves as a great tool to communicate and collaborate with my crop consultant. We analyze the data to determine the ideal climate settings and find ways to improve productivity.”

Madestein UK also connected their Priva climate computer with the 30MHz platform last year. Director Jonathan Zwinkels: ‘We’ve experienced the integration of 30MHz’s platform and our Priva climate computer to be fairly low effort on our part. It was quick, efficient and remote. Bringing these data sources together has proved to be very beneficial. We’re able to cross-reference data (ex: VPD of basil leaf, or stress points on lettuce). We can graph the VPD data we get through 30MHz’s platform 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.”

 

3. Harness online data to protect crops from pests and diseases

Quality data is crucial when crafting an integrated pest management (IPM) programme, according to Ant Surrage, Technical Development Specialist at Fargro. He wrote about it in a contributed article of The Grower, a magazine by AHDB, last year. “Growers must recognize 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 IPM programme,” says Ant.

Growers can combine different 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) in the 30MHz data platform. This provides the detailed overview needed to fight the range of insects, fungi and diseases that can compromise crop development.

Ant states: “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.”

But what happens when a virus breaks out? Viruses generally tend to spread easily and rapidly through handling, cutting and insect pollination, so prevention requires strict and proactive measures. Identifying viruses can be tricky. Digital and collaborative identification, with the ability to compare and comment on images in real-time without the need for on-site visits can make a huge difference in preventing further outbreak.

 

4. Make crop cultivation more data-driven

“In the horticulture sector, most growers cultivate their crops based on feeling and intuition. We are used to doing this as well. But now that the data tools and sensor technologies are getting better and better, we can start relying on data more and take a more data-driven approach. I think combining a growers’ intuition with the right data tools, such as crop level sensors, monitoring tools, analysis tools and system integrations, will become increasingly important,” says Matthijs Woestenburg, Innovation Manager at Gitzels Plant Nursery.

With the right tools, growers can create a database filled with meaningful and adequate data describing the status of climate and crop. They will be able to control and optimize growth plans and production processes in one digital platform. Growers can keep track of the crops in their greenhouse or tunnel in real-time, and keep an interactive record of their growing practices. Monitoring and analyzing information about, among other things, climate, soil moisture, energy use, CO2 and crop health at any time and place. This enables growers to make more data-driven decisions to optimize growing conditions, for example by adjusting climate, irrigation and pest management strategies. Leading to higher productivity, greater resource efficiency and better crop quality.

Matthijs: “We decided we wanted to take the next step in digitizing our production processes with 30MHz. Next to the platform, we started using microclimate sensors to compare that data with our existing climate computer data. This has given us many new, interesting insights. We’re also using the Sendot oxygen sensor, with which we can easily measure oxygen inside the pot and directly in the barrels. All this data is fed into 30MHz’s data platform, so that we can analyze and use those insights at any time of the day. With these new insights we are able to create a drier climate in the greenhouse, which means we can avoid downy mildew. By measuring oxygen levels and temperatures at crop level, it becomes a lot easier to optimize the climate for the plants. When the climate is optimal, the plant is healthy and doesn’t get sick. 30MHz’s platform provides the advantage of collecting all data in one place and making it accessible through multiple devices, including my phone.”

 

5. Collaborate across multiple locations for greater consistency

To serve the horticultural sector well, a data platform needs to make comparing locations easy – whether those locations are down the road, across the country, or across the globe.

The 30MHz data platform is built for collaboration around data. That means making it easy to work with a variety of data sources (sensor data, climate control, manual data input) 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 horticulture businesses aiming for greater consistency across locations, for making the most of consultants’ expertise, and for leveraging knowledge within decentralized teams.

Pinata Farms in Australia has been successfully using our data platform’s collaboration features to streamline the exchange of information with UK-based berry growers. There are currently five growers who are using the platform, including Technical Manager Lee Peterson. “Through the data platform’s collaboration features, we can share dashboards and create groups with the growers at BerryWorld in the UK. This allows easy comparisons and contrasting of the various berry varieties across locations, and enables us to create comments and ask questions in the dashboard, streamlining the exchange of information.”

 

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.

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.