Why do we need a written vision for digitalization in horticulture?

The impact of digitalization on the sector is bound to be historic. Consequently, the horticultural sector must develop a vision for this, to avoid being ‘caught off guard' by any developments. A proactive attitude is needed more than ever, Colinda de Beer says. As it happens, such a vision has been written in the Netherlands (in Dutch), and you can read it here.

What will your role be?
Exactly what the consequences of digitalization will be like is impossible to predict. How it unfolds depends on numerous factors, most importantly the companies themselves: they can become the main players in developments that lead us into the future. One condition, however, is that they should already be thinking about their role now. Do they want to be at the forefront of the development of digital innovations, for example, or do they just want to be the end-user of those innovations?

Entrepreneurs, therefore, need to think about their role in the chain, now and in the future. That is a complex task. To do that, more knowledge is needed about what digitalization is and the potential effects, opportunities, and challenges. That is the most important reason for a written vision on digitalization: to give entrepreneurs insight so that they can make choices.

What kind of future do we want?
Digitalization is too big, too complex, and too all-encompassing for one individual entrepreneur: they need support in this. Thus, these parties benefit from a written vision on digitalization, so that we all know where the future leads.

The question remains, how do we go from vision to action? In the short term, (joint) courses of action are needed on the following themes.

  • Digitalize green knowledge: much knowledge about decisions in growing crops is only inside the heads of entrepreneurs and needs to be digitally recorded. 
  • Create awareness: horticultural entrepreneurs should be more aware that digitalization offers plenty of untapped opportunities for better yields. Through that awareness, entrepreneurs become better interlocutors with branches outside the sector and/or technological companies with potential solutions. 
  • Create collaborations: a good ecosystem is a precondition for the development and implementation of new technologies. More attention should therefore be paid to bringing parties together (companies, organizations) who can jointly put their weight behind a technology.
  • Utilize knowledge from other sectors better: a lot of the issues in greenhouse horticulture are not unique. It is important to investigate where the same issues are occurring in other places and may already have been dealt with. 
  • Integration: it is also important to realize that new technology and knowledge must be made use of as part of a total system. Sensors can provide very interesting information separately from all other parts, but something must be done to ensure that this information is relevant.

For the longer term, action is needed at what we call ‘level 3’ in the written vision. This entails a fundamental change in business models, chain, and business processes. We do not yet know what that will look like, but we can prepare ourselves as well as possible.

Whatever the future of digitalization looks like, it is important that standards are established for the storage of data, so that entrepreneurs and research institutions can use the data to develop new technological concepts. One of the challenges is to determine which knowledge areas the greenhouse horticulture cluster will need to invest in its own research, and where it will need to make use of developments from other sectors. It goes without saying that digital security is paramount in all of these developments, but we will still have to take major steps in this area.

Read the entire article at innovationorigins.com

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