The power of algorithms in greenhouses

18-11-2020    16:27   |    Goedemorgen

NETHERLANDS- Wouter van den Bosch is the owner of Kwekerij Van den Bosch in Bleiswijk, the Netherlands. A company with 5 hectares of green bell peppers and 1 hectare of blackberries. He recently started using Blue Radix's Crop Controller for autonomous growing. We asked him about the power of algorithms. What are the advantages and what advice does he have for growers who may still have doubts about autonomous greenhouse management?

Can you describe what you mean by autonomous greenhouse management supported by algorithms?
“For me, autonomous greenhouse management is growing based on a crop strategy. The role of the grower is to determine the strategy and adjust it where necessary. The practical implementation of the setpoints and the greenhouse controls is regulated by the algorithms. So, for example, the amount of water that is given at a specific moment in time. These are practical actions as a result of the defined crop strategy. This is typically done by the algorithms. For obtaining the right climate, the algorithms automatically steer to the correct energy balance within certain bandwidths. With Crop Controller the grower has more time for measures which are necessary for more complex aspects and risks. Such as fungus, dry winds in spring, growing a strong crop to survive warm periods in the summer, etcetera.”

In your opinion, what are the benefits of working with algorithms?
“Error margins are reduced and it ensures further automation of the cultivation process. In the future, I also expect that new insights can be formed by linking plant sensors, which makes even better productions results possible.”

How do you see the application of algorithms within your company?
“The diversity of crops and the plans for further expansion makes it very complex. We do not want to compromise on the quality of our crop management, which is why we opted for automation to  take work out off our hands and make daily processes more simple.”

Where and how do you think autonomous growing will be applied in horticulture? What still needs to be developed?
“Growing is a very complex process and for now it’s done with the grower’s input and feedback. The utmost immediate advantage is that it relieves the grower. We have a reasonable picture of our greenhouse climate and the influence of the weather on the conditions in the greenhouse. If you combine this with weather forecasts and historical data, it is already easy to anticipate and gain added value with algorithms. However, circumstances in the greenhouse are very dynamic, which means that historical experiences can quickly become irrelevant. As soon as we can feed the algorithm with feedback from the crop, i.e. crop measurements, photosynthesis efficiency, production of dry matter or just kilogram production, we can really start growing smarter.”

What is your advice to growers who may still have doubts about growing with algorithms?
“Consider for yourself what it can bring you and how far the horizon of your company extends. Autonomous greenhouse management is at an early stage of development, early entry gives you the opportunity to grow along with the development. However, the stage in which algorithms are essential to be a competitive greenhouse horticulture company is, in my opinion, a bit further away. By growing with the technology, we are able to implement it organically and make it part of the competitive capacity. Artificial intelligence is an opportunity if you anticipate it. If you don’t, it can become a threat.”

What suggestion can you give to Blue Radix to further develop algorithms?
“They started with a good basic product. When it becomes possible to include and influence the algorithms using plant sensor measurements, you will even create more added value.”


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