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"Digitization is a means, not an end"

From gut feel to data, subjective interpretation to algorithms, manual labor to robots, and system-driven intervention. Digitizing cultivation offers opportunities. Still, growers would do well not to measure things indiscriminately and, importantly, not make digitization an end unto itself.

That is perhaps the primary lesson attendees could draw from the recent Digitization Event held in the Netherlands. Delphy's Klaas van Egmond talked about 'Keeping a grip on winter through digitization.' Carl van Oosten of Agro Energie offered a peak into energy market developments, and chrysanthemum expert David van Tuijl shared his vision of and experiences with digitization. Afterward, people could visit several workshops that addressed the digitization theme from different angles.

Be critical
The message? Meaningful digitization starts with critically evaluating what your true goals are. What makes sense in your company's context? What do you want to invest your own time in? And above all, where do you want to save time? "I want to spend less, not more, time at my computer," says David. "I find digitization interesting when it saves time. If the computer can do something like managing energy use better, let it. Then you can do something fun, such as growing chrysanthemums."

Klaas van Egmond questioning David van Tuijl.

In David's case, as in many companies, digitization is especially useful for energy management. Also, it is increasingly important in cultivation, but even there, it must be critically considered beforehand. Exactly what data do you collect, do you do that consistently, and is there any sense in comparing data sets?

Have you not changed varieties? Is the greenhouse arrangement unchanged, were there pests or mishaps? Digitization must also result in concrete improvements: a better quality end product or, for example, faster intervention and adjustment. If it does not do that or does so minimally, is it worth the time, energy, and money?

Carl van Oosten of Agro Energie.

The event is an initiative of Glastuinbouw Nederland, Delphy Improvement Centre, Priva, Zentoo, Hogeschool Inholland, Delphy, and Greenport West-Holland. It is part of the ‘Accelerating Green Digitization in Greenhouse Horticulture’ project. Though launched during the pandemic with European funding, it remains relevant.

The day was not as well attended as this spring's first edition. Undoubtedly because it had to compete with the National Horticultural Congress and the Floriculture Crop Protection Days. Also, the energy crisis's character has more recently shifted from an acute need to a permanent annoyance.

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