Co-writers: Mr. Peter Klapwijk, Green Architect and Connector with a vast growing history and Marit Nieboer – Klapwijk – Business coach, discovers and supports you and your companies talents and abilities.


A Look at Technical Innovation from the Recent 5 Years to the Future

Doubling Down on Production

When Peter took his first management training course, 35 years ago, he learned about ‘management by walking around.’ His company doubled in size, from 1 to 2 hectares. During the training, we learned that it is mostly the eye of the master that fattens the horse. We understood frequently walking throughout your company and critically monitoring all processes have therefore become an important tool towards successful management.

From Crops, to the Cockpit

The Supply Chain Tightens

Over the last 5 years, a lot has changed in the world, especially in our sector. Since, we can differentiate two important causes that have defined major developments within the chain.
1. Increasing supply chain integrations between retail and production. The chain is becoming shorter and more comprehensive.
2. Organizations in the retail sector are growing, seeking differentiation, and increasingly driven by marketing.

An important and necessary upscale in production companies is caused by the need to connect to the scope and desires of the customers. This growth is either achieved autonomously, or is financed by investment funds that arrive from outside the sector more and more. Another possibility for growth is mergers between producers who are looking for a way to strengthen their position together.

A second important movement that results from the tightening of the food supply chain, is that producers are growing an increasingly broad assortment in order to meet the wishes of their exclusive clients. Ten years ago, specializations in cherry tomatoes, gross vines, and beef tomatoes were common, but nowadays, one producer can grow a broad lineup in collaboration with a fixed client. Today’s modern grower has made a considerable move towards the shelves, and we think that’s a win.

An Increasingly Conscious Consumer

Consciousness of the consumer in the relation between nutrition and health, longevity, and environmental awareness have grown exponentially over the last five years. An important result of this is the growing interest in biologically cultivated products. Chemical crop protection and the use of nutrients are more critically monitored in typical cultivation processes. In addition to that, the input of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions are critically viewed. Rules and regulations from the government and retail organizations, possibly connected to quality labels and certifications, limit the spectrum within the cultivation process. These days, it requires skills and advanced capabilities in order to deliver a qualitative and sufficiently clean product.
Innovation Is Trend Driven
Therefore, we have selected the most important trends to take note of:

  • Companies are growing, a lot!
  • Assortments are broadening.
  • The number of supplies to maintain healthy cultivation are drastically decreasing.
  • In a short period of time, a lot of energy needs to be saved.
  • It is becoming more difficult to find capable growers.

What should we change in our way of working and which innovations can we implement?

Embrace Circularity

First of all, think circularity. We believe this is an amazing opportunity for high tech horticulture. In a protected and controlled environment, products can be grown very clean and especially efficient when it comes to effectively monitoring the input of water and nutrients. At the same time, a greenhouse may function as a solar collector, meaning more energy can be extracted and stored. Circularity brings a lot of potential, so let’s embrace it.

Sustainable Farming Solutions

For example: The World Horti Centre in Naaldwijk had a project this year named, ‘The circular greenhouse.’ The tomato cultivation was nurtured with completely organic and circular nutrients, while no pesticides were used. The growth was successfully completed and shows us that producing without chemicals will be possible in the near future.
When using fewer chemical pesticides, phytosanitary management should be managed very professionally and reliably to ensure the health of the plants in the greenhouse.

Green Intelligence

With a narrowing cultivational technical spectrum, we expect that monitoring and security via modern greenhouse solutions like cameras and sensors connected to Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become increasingly important and available in the future. In the greenhouses and operations of the future, we can expect the development of important tools specifically related to this field of work.

These greenhouses will be cultivated with autonomously directed systems and monitored using sensors and cameras that can accurately manage and adjust the cultivational process, growing process, and plant health. Crop management, harvest, and the use of greenhouse accessories will be automized and robotic, as well. The factor labor will become more expensive and scarcer. Over the past five years, these trends have continued to evolve and it appears that the recent tensions in the world have accelerated this.

The future calls for more extensive, efficient, and reliable cultivation concepts. Therefore, our future greenhouse will become too large and complex to manage ‘by walking around.’ For crop monitoring, we will need a “digital cockpit” where we can seamlessly follow the essential growth factors that are largely controlled by the system.

While the world keeps spinning, the only question left to ask is whether or not you would like to catch up, progress, and spread your wings for flight. In order to fly safely, you will always need a good cockpit.


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