With a 20-hectare site in Wervershoof, north-western Netherlands, C.Zwinkels specializes in cultivating bell peppers. By using only ultra-modern glass stands in combination with the latest techniques including biological control, recirculation of drain water, and heating by CHPs, C. Zwinkels is one of the most sustainable nurseries in the country. As specialist craftsman growers and members of Coöperatie Harvest House U.A., C. Zwinkels grows and invests in line with the most environmentally conscious methods.
more fruit weight
In pursuit of a new way of growing
In 2022, C. Zwinkels decided to switch from growing yellow to red peppers. As any senior grower understands, new cultivars come with new challenges. Head Grower and General Manager Arus Biersteker wanted to determine whether AI could create optimal profitable cultivation plans across his three greenhouses, which are about seven hectares each.
“Keeping a consistent and clear overview across three greenhouses is not without its challenges. It’s easy to miss important details and can be difficult to stay on track with plans originally set, especially with a new cultivar. With only a certain amount of time to spend on each greenhouse, you have to make decisions fast, often without as much information as you’d like.” - C. Zwinkels Head Grower and General Manager, Arus Biersteker
- It is challenging to keep red pepper fruit weight consistent throughout the season, particularly with the Alzamora pepper variety. If plants are stretched out too much early on in the season, this cultivar will not perform well in terms of fruit weight towards the end of the season.
- C. Zwinkels had issues with a new aphid last year which resulted in ending cultivation early and cost them 2 kg/m2 (on top of €0.50/m2 extra labor costs.)
- Climate computers show a large amount of data, which can make it challenging to identify the root cause of problems. Especially for new, less experienced, growers.
Using Source to create optimized, profitable cultivation plans
Zwinkels engaged with Source.ag in the summer of 2022 and deployed the Source Track dashboard to provide key data for the new cultivation, and Source App to measure plants with granularity and consistency.
Source Track is a hardware-agnostic platform that tracks, compares and improves cultivations. Source Track helps growers manage more hectares more effectively. It provides growers with one platform to track all of the data surrounding a cultivation, generating and sharing insights across multiple facilities so that growers can get an overall view across all operations.
With Source Track, C. Zwinkels can get a single overview of the state of its most important KPIs across all three of its greenhouses. Using Source Track, C. Zwinkels began to track:
- Ratio of irrigation to light
- Plant load
- Dry down at first irrigation cycle
- Dry down at sunset
- Total dry down
By simulating plant biology and helping to optimize photosynthesis, Source Track clearly indicates whether C. Zwinkels’ KPIs are on or off track, helping Arus to make the best decisions based on all the right data. Source Track provides a simple and intuitive dashboard to show all KPIs that matter to its optimal cultivation. Data-driven insight can be accessed anywhere, at any time, meaning the grower has a constant overview of operations.
Source Track also provides C. Zwinkels with the tools to work towards a more strategically optimised crop plan, and allowing it to compare the realised results with the original growing plan. With more careful planning for the season, the grower has been able to determine when it should speed things up, and when it shouldn’t.
Even if I have a day off, I can check in to see if everything is going well and going according to plan. I have an overview of all important things for my cultivation on one page.
- Arus Biersteker
Powerful metrics and KPIs
Keeping a clear overview of three greenhouses used to be challenging for the grower. With Source, C. Zwinkels can get a single overview of the state of its most important KPIs across all three greenhouses. Using only the climate computer, the grower could not see the connections and correlation between the graphs and the KPIs, but in Source, this is easily demonstrated.
In addition to this, the grower has also started looking at new and previously unknown KPIs in Source, which is delivering more in-depth insight into the new cultivation. Arus explains that Source helps him to monitor historical timelines and trends, whereas previously, the climate computer only showed the current state of any given KPI:
“In the climate computer I can't see the connections between graphs and KPIs, but in Source I can. This gives me a clearer view of the current status of my cultivation, and of course any adjustments or decisions I need to make. With Source I can also look further ahead, forecasting using real plant data, which is much more accurate. I can see how many set fruits I can expect just by looking at the number of flowers which I register in the app.”
Relying on climate computers can be time-consuming, and junior growers may not have the experience to understand the root causes of problems. With Source, we can get a single overview of the state of our most important KPIs across all three of our greenhouses.
- Arus Biersteker
Managing more greenhouses and hectares with confidence and ease
Since using Source, C. Zwinkels has seen considerable improvement in revenue, both in spring and autumn, largely due to being able to produce bigger, better peppers that are in demand.
Prior to implementing the technology, peppers would regularly not reach target weights by the end of the growing season. After applying Source, C.Zwinkels is now able to produce peppers with 10% more weight throughout the whole season. This is down to better growing decisions made throughout the season, which has resulted in getting more peppers from the main branch, which are heavier and grow quicker.
C.Zwinkels is now able to sell 80-90% of peppers even in the last three weeks of the season, in comparison to 50% during this end of season time period in previous years.
“One wrong decision can make or break a season: when cultivations get off course at the beginning of a season, it is difficult to be profitable. With Source, I’m able to look more into the future. Instead of spending countless hours on climate computers, Source tells me the status of my cultivation, pointing out deviations that I can act on immediately to keep my cultivation on course.” C. Zwinkels Head Grower and General Manager, Arus Biersteker
Source is also inspiring us to track new KPIs that we hadn’t thought to track before, which is delivering more in-depth insight into the new cultivation. KPIs such as ratio of irrigation to light, plant load, drain, dry down at first irrigation cycle, dry down at sunset, and total dry down have been instrumental in growing peppers with 10% more weight throughout the whole season.
- Arus Biersteker
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