"We're digitizing growers' fingertips"

NiCa Gbr is one of the most modern propagation companies in the Niederrhein region of Germany. It specializes in Calluna "Beauty Ladies" bud flowers. On April 14, the company welcomed the partners of the "Gardener's Green Thumb" project, namely Interreg Deutschland-Nederland VA. The company presented the current state of the project's development.

Birgit Mosler (Rhewatech gUG) and John van Helden von Helden (Yookr) did the introduction, and partners presented their innovations. NiCa GbR owner Michael de Winkel and his company manager Marco Lichtenberger then shared the challenges the company faces and where support in the work processes is feasible or essential.

"Gardener's Green Thumb" is a digital dashboard that collects crop and environmental data, like soil moisture levels, temperature, or fertilization status. It gets that from sensors developed as part of the project. There is also an optical sensor that measures daily plant growth and makes inferences about the effectiveness of the applied cultivation measures. The dashboard presents this and may issue alerts if there are excessive deviations from previously defined standard values.

A decision support system (DSS) supports this dashboard. This system is based on user needs and uses a specially-developed A.I.-based 'rule engine' to make recommendations for cultivation measures. It uses numerous specialists' expertise and know-how and is, thus, precisely tailored to practical needs.

In the future, growers will also have access to a speech-recognition system. That will allow them to not only query their crops' current status; they will also be able to do things on the spot, like fertilizing, irrigating, or applying crop protection, without even having to take off their gloves.

Growers already testing the system are excited about its possibilities. Easy-to-access documentation means no relevant information is lost. So, from a sustainable management stance, fertilization and crop protection can be optimized. And available resources can be conserved for future horticulture.

The Interreg (European Territorial Cooperation) program supports the 'Gardener's Green Thumb project. These parties are also involved: Yookr BV, Rhewatech gUG, Aris B.V. | Vision Systems , Rhine-Waal University, Ingenieurbüro Norbert Gröger, and ISIS IC GmbH, along with many application partners in Germany and the Netherlands.

Various agencies co-finance this project: the European Regional Development Fund, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia's Ministry for Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization, and Energy, and the North-Brabant and Limburg provinces in the Netherlands.

Source: Yookr (via LinkedIn)

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