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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.”

 

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

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.

30MHz and Hort Americas join forces to bring smart sensing to North American growers


Leading commercial horticultural suppliers Hort Americas, and smart sensing technology providers 30MHz are pleased to announce that they’ve partnered to bring the power of real-time, crop-level monitoring to growers across Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and Mexico. Hort Americas is the first North American distributor of 30MHz technology.

The data platform for horti- and agriculture

30MHz provides agribusinesses with everything they need to start monitoring their crops and growing environment accurately and in real-time, with just minutes of setup. Customers choose from a variety of sensors sourced and developed with growers and agricultural research institutions (capturing metrics including VPD, dewpoint, temperature, humidity, soil moisture and airflow.) 30MHz also provides a private, scalable mesh network (with the option to easily add more sensors at any time) and an intuitive analytics platform with real-time alerts, visualizations, heatmaps, charts and graphs accessible on any device.  

With 30MHz technology, customers can deploy a wireless sensor network themselves, without technical expertise. Sensors arrive preconfigured— customers simply connect their gateway to a power supply and ethernet, and log into the platform to immediately start measuring.

Built to help agribusinesses of all sizes harness the full power of their environmental data, the 30MHz platform makes crop metrics accessible, shareable and actionable without the burden of juggling multiple interfaces. Real-time sensor data can be viewed alongside data from other sources, including climate control systems, shelf quality control and traceability monitoring and root zone monitoring software.

Empowering agribusinesses across the chain

The scalable and modular nature of 30MHz tech makes it a fit for growers of all sizes across agricultural verticals. With over 150 customers across five continents, 30MHz serves agribusinesses from farm to fork, in greenhouse, vertical (hydroponic and aeroponic), arable, ornamental, cold store, processing, packing, transport, retail and livestock. Based in Bedford, Texas, Hort Americas partners with leading suppliers of commercial horticultural products from around to world in order to serve the North American professional greenhouse and indoor ag grower community with the latest technologically advanced products from around the world. Hort Americas’ breadth of expertise across horticulture makes the company ideally positioned to bring the Dutch-founded 30MHz further into the North American market.

“We’ve seen the hunger for actionable data among North American growers— they’re constantly looking to innovate and make the most of their resources. But they don’t have time for overly complex systems that silo their data and take forever to get off the ground. Hort Americas understand the specific challenges and needs of North American agriculture, and how to translate Dutch agri-innovation into efficiency and productivity in local contexts” notes Director of Customer Affairs Cor Jan Holwerda.

“Hort Americas continues to look for cutting edge technology that solves problems and provides answers to the questions our grower partners are asking us.  With believe that 30MHz’s product portfolio does just that,” adds founder and general manager Chris Higgins.

Saint-Gobain Cultilene and 30MHz sign agritech partnership


New online dashboard gives growers granular real-time insights into root environment

Cultilene, supplier of rockwool-substrate solutions and high-quality diffuse glass, has joined forces with smart sensing technology provider 30MHz to give growers more insights into the root environment of crops. Using real-time sensory data, Cultilene can now offer agronomists an additional tool to optimise their irrigation- and EC management, taking production and crop quality to the next level. The two companies signed the partnership agreement on March 1st 2018. The dashboard, which was designed for ease of use, is currently being tested by a Dutch tomato grower, and will be made available later this year.

The online dashboard was developed to help Cultilene drive growers’ success beyond offering the best substrate solutions for contemporary horticulture. The company wants to support growers in optimising their growing strategy, and recognizes that maintaining a healthy root environment —which affects water and nutrition absorption— is crucial to this success. Cultilene recommends continuously monitoring five key metrics (“the Big Five”) during cultivation: soil moisture level, EC, pH, oxygen and temperature.

Pooling knowledge to help growers

This partnership brings together Cultilene’s 35 years of expertise in rootzone management and the real-time data captured by 30MHz wireless sensing technology, augmenting decision-making capabilities for growers. The 30MHz ZENSIE dashboards provides an intuitive way to visualize sensor data alongside other data sources, including climate computers and loggers.

Practically, this means that multiple sensors are placed in the roots of plants, and data captured by these sensors is displayed within the ZENSIE dashboard, which growers can access with their smartphones, tablets or laptops. Customers can view heat maps, graphs, visualizations and alerts on changing crop conditions in real-time.

Precise adjustments

Once collected, the grower doesn’t have to analyse crop data. Cultilene’s agricultural expertise is translated into graphs which area available to the customer in the same dashboard. Growers see soil moisture and EC distribution, mat saturation and drain. Crop data is compared with daily target values, much like in Framework (a breeding manual for substrate cultivation).

In this way, growers maintain a complete overview of their crop environment, and know precisely how to adjust their irrigation strategy, with support from Cultilene when needed. “The new online wireless dashboard gives the grower clear and real-time insight into what’s happening inside the rootzone,’ says Lucie Paulet, Cultilenes Innovation manager. “It serves as a decision-making tool for optimise crops, better productivity and improved quality.”

 

Integration empowers growers to augment any climate computer with sensor insights


Growers can now connect data from any climate computer to the 30MHzwireless sensor platform with Klimlink. 30MHz, the Amsterdam-based provider of smart sensing technology equips agricultural customers with all the elements needed to monitor and optimise growing and storage environments with physical data: wireless sensors, a scalable network, and a customizable dashboard with alerts and analytics, all deployable in minutes. Partnership and integration with Klimlink offers growers a deeper real-time understanding of crop needs on both macro (climate computer data) and micro (wireless sensor data) levels. The result is tangible insights customers can respond to, preventing crop loss and saving energy.

Breaking down data silos in agriculture

Any systems that generate data can be linked together via Klimlink, and made immediately available in the 30MHz dashboard, with heatmaps, graphs, and other interactive visualizations. “This is a major step in breaking down data silos in agriculture. Growers work with so many different climate systems, and have to read data per system without a central overview of their metrics. This is work-intensive, impractical, and makes it difficult to fully optimise. Integrating with Klimlink knocks down the walls separating this powerful data, making it immediately actionable in our dashboard.” says 30MHz Director of Customer Affairs Cor-Jan Holwerda.

Empowering growers with selective data sharing

Klimlink, developed by agritechnologist Wim van Vliet, enables growers to bring together large amounts of data available from greenhouse horticulture companies (most often from climate computers) onto a single, intuitive platform. Without high costs or subsidies, Klimlink opens the door to many additional applications, making data available for deeper analysis. With customizable data sharing features in the 30MHz dashboard, growers can get more value out of their measurements by comparing data with each other, while researchers and crop advisers can simply look over the grower’s shoulder without having to log on to different control systems.