At the start of this year, tomato producer Agro Care announced its ambition of wanting to grow to 1000 hectares of greenhouses in 2030. To help realize this, one of Europe's largest greenhouse growers has taken the first steps to shift to more data-driven farming through a collaboration with A.I. startup Source.
After working with Source's technology for one year, Agro Care's branch director Paul Grootscholten shares his three key insights.
- Transparency enables greater collaboration: The data dashboard gives instant insights into the many factors that can impact the harvest. "I don't need to go through the entire list [of factors] with my growers like I used to, as I can immediately see which elements are not on par [they turn red]. This allows me to focus on the ones that need to be improved and I can spend more time actively coaching my growers on how to do that. This attentive way of communicating and collaborating has made me a better manager, as I can support my growers without daily supervision. As a result, our growers are becoming more independent, as they feel supported by the direct feedback through data, while I can focus more on guiding them in the right direction.
- Direct feedback enables more risk-taking: The real-time data leads to a much shorter feedback loop in the greenhouse. "I've been experimenting with different strategies and have been pushing boundaries way beyond what I thought was possible. My father would have called me crazy for putting the set point of the heating pipe at a maximum of 45 degrees Celsius, resulting in a 24-hour average temperature of 17 degrees Celsius. I have continuous insight into what's happening, which allows me to take more risks. This will continue to be crucial with the rising energy costs."
- Spending fewer hours in the greenhouse: Most growers feel the need to be in their greenhouses every single day to see how their plants are doing. "I can instantly see what's actually happening in my greenhouses, as I can look at the data tiles on my screen at any given time without needing to be physically present. This frees up valuable time, which I can spend on other important things to help us achieve our ambitious goals."