Vision on digitalisation in horticulture

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The role of digitalisation in ‘‘Feeding and Greening the Megacities’’ Digitalisation vision for Greenhouse Horticulture

The role of digitalisation in “Feeding and Greening the Megacities” Digitalisation Vision for Horticulture

June 2021 Colinda de Beer Mario van Vliet Peter van der Sar Woody Maijers



Table of Contents Table of Contents


Foreword by Martin van Gogh




1. Introduction


2. Why this vision?


3. The task for the Dutch horticultural sector


3.1 The Dutch horticultural sector: key figures


3.2 The ‘Feeding and Greening the Megacities’ strategy


3.2.1 Number 1 in knowledge and innovation


3.2.2 Selling products and services to (residents of) Western Europe


3.2.3 Selling concepts internationally


3.3 Horticultural scenarios


3.3.1 Competing globally


3.3.2 International corporate responsibility 3.3.3 Individual national operations

18 19

3.3.4 Regional co-operation


4. Digitalisation in the horticultural sector


4.1 Digitalisation: Three levels


4.2 Digitalisation in the horticultural industry: the state of play


4.3 The chain


4.3.1 Breeding


4.3.2 Propagation


4.3.3 (Technical) supply companies


4.3.4 Project developers and greenhouse builders


4.3.5 Production companies


4.3.6 Trade, transport, packaging companies and sales


4.3.7 Retail


4.3.8 Consumer


4.4 Challenges for the Dutch horticultural sector


4.4.1 Green knowledge


4.4.2 Internationalisation


4.4.3 Short chains


4.4.4 Responding to consumer demand


4.4.5 Optimising sales


4.4.6 Using resources more efficiently


4.4.7 Sustainability



4.4.8 Unmanned growing


4.4.9 People


5. The future of digitalisation in the horticultural industry


5.1 Digitisation


5.2 Digitalisation


5.2.1 Decision support


5.2.2 Hardware & mechanisation


5.2.3 Sensing


5.2.4 Sales/consumers: Traceability & transparency


5.2.5 Actions required


5.3 Digital transformation


5.3.1 Actions required








Overview of technologies


Artificial Intelligence (AI)


Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality


Big data






Decision Support


Digital Twins




Internet of Things


Quantum computing






Sequencing Technology


Vision Technology





Foreword by Martin van Gogh Green Qubits

one, or both at once.

This Digitalisation Vision for Greenhouse Horticulture gives a clear description of how we

‘Quantum computing’ is almost past the

can apply digitalisation to (once again) become

experimental stage; the first practical tests have

world leaders in the market for vegetables and

started and there’s still a lot to be done. Once the

ornamental plant products. This is the core of the

technology is working properly, the consequences

‘Feeding and Greening the Megacities’ strategy,

could be enormous. The impact on horticultural

which I was privileged to develop and summarise

applications in the fields of artificial intelligence,

a few years back in the widely-used infographic.

machine learning and data science will be huge.

The strategy consists of the pillars Knowledge

This is also true of the pharmaceutical industry,

& Innovation, Selling products and services to

health care, the security industry and energy.

(residents of ) Western European megacities,

Entirely new products, such as super-powerful

and International sales of such concepts. New

batteries, strong fibres and rust-proof paint,

technology is needed to achieve this, but more than

are expected to see the light of day thanks to

anything it’s essential that we think differently and

quantum computing. Other options include climate

that we realise that digitalisation is much more

simulations and smart robots. Quantum computers

than just an opportunity; it is essential if we are to

leave traditional computers far behind. This also


makes them a serious threat to cryptography. Their computing power is so enormous that encrypted

Take ‘quantum computing’, for example. It’s a

data is no longer secure. Even advanced encryption

technology that seems to have escaped from a

can be cracked. It’s hard for us to imagine what this

science fiction film, but one in which we in the

will mean.

Netherlands – particularly in Delft – are leading the way for the rest of the world. The new internet

There is no doubt that our horticulture is moving

could well be ‘made in Delft’.

towards a digitalised future. Digitalisation is inevitable if we are increase productivity and

To illustrate the difference between traditional and

maintain competitiveness. These fantastic

quantum computers, research firm Gartner takes

developments create important opportunities for

a library as an example. A classical computer reads

business in the horticultural industry, both in the

all those books one by one, one after the other. A

primary sector and in the supply chain.

quantum computer reads millions of books at once, But the road to digitalisation is also full of

and finishes more quickly too.

challenges. With this Digitalisation Vision for So quantum computers operate completely

Greenhouse Horticulture, which deals with the

differently to classical computers. They make use

role of digitalisation in ‘Feeding and Greening the

of the idiosyncratic characteristics of particles that

Megacities’, the sector will be able to prepare for

are smaller than atoms. Standard computers work

the digital transformation, for example by working

with bits. They can only deal with two different

on making data widely accessible, and developing

values: zeroes and ones. Quantum computers

awareness and an open attitude amongst business

work with ‘quantum bits’, or ‘qubits’ for short.

owners. Because no matter how digital the future

They are able to assume both possible states

is, humans are the ones in charge and in order to

simultaneously: on and off. They can be on a zero, a

do that they – the business owner or the employee


– must have the right competences. Fortunately robotisation doesn’t mean that we, the people in the sector, no longer need to think – especially about digitalisation.

Martin van Gogh Vice-chairman Economic Board South Holland Director Batenburg Industrial Automation Ambassador Greenport West-Holland


Summary Digitalisation offers the Dutch greenhouse

knowledge, and the creation of awareness and

horticulture chain the opportunity to (once again)

knowledge amongst users (such as the production

become world leaders in vegetables and ornamental


products That is the core of the ‘Feeding and Greening the Megacities’ strategy, which consists

There is also a third level of digitalisation: digital

of the pillars Knowledge & Innovation, Selling

transformation. This involves a fundamental

products and services to (residents of ) Western

change to the business model, chain processes and

European megacities, and the International sales of

business processes and the employees, through

such concepts.

the application and acceptance of technological innovations. This is also referred to as ‘Horticulture

These pillars can to a large extent be realised

4.0’. Digital transformation is the next industrial

by using new technologies. This will enable the


sector to meet challenges in the areas of securing green knowledge, establishing short chains, and

Digital transformation is not a short-term process,

responding to consumer desires.

and it’s certainly not something that will happen overnight. It’s hard to predict what the digital

The sector is no stranger to the use of digital

transformation of the sector will look like. The first

technologies. The Dutch greenhouse horticulture

outlines are already visible; for example, growing as

chain has made great strides in recent decades.

a service is expected to rise.

A large amount of information has already been digitised (e.g. auction paperwork), and there are

So on one hand, this third level is difficult to predict,

also business processes (such as climate control)

but the sector can certainly prepare for the digital

that have been fully computerised for many years.

transformation by, for example, working on making

This means that the sector has already made

data widely accessible, developing data standards,

considerable progress in the first two levels of

and continuing to work on awareness and an open

digitalisation, namely digitisation (converting

attitude amongst business owners.

information from a physical to a digital format) and digitalisation (using digital information to set up

Because no matter how digital the future is, it’s


people who are in charge. But in order to do that they – the business owner or the employee – must

There are still concrete tasks remaining in the

have the right competences. So digitalisation also

second level. For example there is room for decision

places demands on the ‘humanware’ in the sector.

support systems to be established in various links of the chain. Autonomous cultivation is a clear example of this; it is the domain of robots, Artificial Intelligence (AI), sensors, vision technology and mechatronics, amongst others. These technologies undergo further market development autonomously; no joint, co-operative actions are required. But the sector does need to ensure that the preconditions are present for these technologies to succeed. These preconditions are a good ecosystem, the digitalisation of green



1. Introduction From auction paperwork written out by hand to

Digitalisation doesn’t stand still. It’s up to the

unmanned growing and e-commerce platforms:

horticultural sector to keep up with – or better

Dutch horticulture has developed enormously in

still, stay ahead of, steer, come up with and take

recent years. Digitalisation has played a leading

advantage of – developments in digitalisation.

role in almost all developments, and that role will increase in the coming decades. It’s thought that sensors, robots, artificial intelligence, big data and vision technology, for example, are on the brink of their real breakthrough. One question that often comes up is: What does this breakthrough mean for the future of horticulture? But there are other questions that are just as important: what breakthroughs does the horticultural sector want, and how is the sector going to direct those breakthroughs? After all, digitalisation isn’t something that is just happening to horticulture; digitalisation is also a question of setting a goal and a vision yourself. There is no such goal and no such vision at this stage, or in any case not for the entire horticultural cluster. Various organisations within the sector have created visions of the future of digitalisation, but these visions often relate to their own subsector or organisation, while one of digitalisation’s specific qualities is that its effects cross the borders of (sub)sectors. So it’s high time that a common goal and a common vision was set for the horticultural cluster with regard to digitalisation. This will mean that stakeholders within the cluster know what the direction is, why, who does what, who doesn’t, and which steps need to or can be taken together. Additionally, a collective vision means connections with regional and national initiatives involved with economic development. You will find that vision in this document, which has been compiled with the help of many clever minds both inside and outside the horticultural sector. It’s a document by and for all of us. And it’s also – as they say – a ‘living document’.



2. Why this vision? Digitalisation doesn’t need a vision; it almost

day, but on their business models as well as on the

happens on its own. Even without a hefty

entire sector.

document packed with reflections, outlooks and advice, robots, sensors, and AI devices are going

A simple example. A digital marketplace enables

to be developed by knowledge institutions and the

production companies to make direct contact with

tech industry, and put to use in the horticultural

buyers and acquire valuable market information.

sector. So why is a vision needed?

This then places those companies in a different position in the chain. But that does demand a lot

Digitalisation is much more than just the rise of a

from the business operations, including in the areas

new technology. It’s a revolution, comparable to

of logistics and quality. And the education sector,

the industrial revolution. “The digital revolution

for example, will need to respond to this too.

has transformed almost every aspect of life since the start of the 20th century and has resulted in

Something similar happened during the first

a digital world, just as the Industrial Revolution

Industrial Revolution. Economist Jeremy Rifkin

200 years earlier resulted in the industrial society,”

describes how the rise of the steam engine led to

according to Wikipedia.

the rise of the railways in America. It resulted in the creation of enormous construction companies, and

The effect of digitalisation will be huge, and

even of big grocery chains and branded products. A

they can be seen already. Shopping streets have

lot of coal was required to fuel the trains, so mines

competition from online stores, hotels are booked

were purchased. And the railways needed well-

via websites, and you keep in touch with friends

educated staff for the stations. It had a huge effect

and family using social media.

on education: all American students needed to have more or less the same competences, such as being

Digitalisation has also been apparent in

good at sums.

horticulture for a long time. For decades greenhouse climates have been controlled by

The impact of digitalisation on the sector will also

computers, auction paperwork has been electronic,

be historic. The chain as we know it is going to

and greenhouses have sensors to monitor variables

change; power relations might be turned upside

such as temperature and humidity. And that’s just

down. And maybe there will be new entrants, just

the start.

as Airbnb and Uber have changed the hotel industry and taxi services.

Robots, drones, AI, big data, blockchain: in recent years new technologies have been cautiously

The horticultural sector therefore needs to develop

entering the sector. There are a number of reasons

a vision for this, to avoid being taken by surprise

why they are not yet commonplace; more on

by the developments. A proactive attitude is

this later in this document. But they are going to

needed more than ever. This piece can be read as a

break through in the near future; that’s a foregone

continuation and further development of the role


of digitalisation in the ‘Feeding and Greening the Megacities’ strategy.

The creators of this document expect that digitalisation is constantly developing and will

The consequences of digitalisation are impossible

result in a digital revolution. In other words:

to predict. The course of events depends on a lot

digitalisation will not only have an effect on the

of different factors. One important factor is the

way that individual companies operate from day to

businesses themselves. They could become key


players in future developments. In order to do so,

insight they need in order to make choices.

though, they need to be thinking about their role

Providing that insight is a collective task.

already. For example, do they want to be at the forefront of digital innovation development, or

Digitalisation is too big, too complex and too

do they simply want to be an end user of these

comprehensive for an individual business owner. He


or she needs support; not only strategic support, but also support from the education sector and

So business owners need to think about their role

government authorities, for example. These parties

in the chain, both now and in the future. That’s a

therefore also benefit from a digitalisation vision.

complex task. In order to do so, more knowledge

So that we all know where the future leads, and

is required about what digitalisation is and its

above all: which future we want.

possible effects, opportunities and challenges. This is then the most important reason to have a digitalisation vision: to give business owners the


3. The tasks for the Dutch horticultural sector 3.1 The Dutch horticultural sector: key figures

The sector’s production value is €27.9 billion,

The Dutch greenhouse horticulture sector is an

of primary agriculture and horticulture. The entire

economic powerhouse. At the core of the sector

horticultural chain contributes 2.7% to Dutch GDP.

are the thousands of production companies, with

The export value is around €24.5 billion, meaning

a total acreage of 9,693 hectares of greenhouses.

that the sector accounts for 4.7% of total Dutch

Each year a portion of this is replaced by new

goods exports. Technical businesses (such as

greenhouses. Based on the technical lifespan of the

greenhouse builders) and services (such as seed

fixtures and fittings (20 to 25 years), 400 hectares

breeders) are responsible for relatively high export

should be replaced each year, but in reality the


making horticulture the biggest sector in the area

figure is higher. Technological developments mean that installations and greenhouses have a shorter

So the Netherlands is a world player when it comes

technical (and economic) lifespan.

to greenhouse construction. Each year around €1.4 billion is invested in new greenhouse construction

The sector’s strength is also reflected in the

worldwide, with Dutch companies responsible for

employment figures. There are 146,000 people

€900 million of this. More and more often, this new

employed in the chain, including business managers

construction involves high-tech greenhouses and

and owners. The total employment totals almost

vertical farming: the acreage of these is growing

254,000 annual work units. Around 58% work in

faster than the low-tech greenhouse surface are.

production companies, with the remainder of the jobs in supply and distribution businesses.

Table 1 Overview of covered cultivation acreage worldwide

Type of covered cultivation worldwide

Acreage 2018

Growth estimate

Acreage 2025

Low-tech greenhouses

550.000 ha

4% per year

+ 700.000 ha

High-tech greenhouses

50.000 ha

7% per year

+ 80.000 ha

Vertical farming

40 ha

15% per year

+ 100 ha

(Source: Een goed klimaat voor tuinbouwtechniek. Toeleveranciers groeien en veranderen)


In 2017 the sector spent €765 million on research

in Western Europe (the area within a roughly

and development, amounting to approximately

500-kilometre radius of the Netherlands) can be

4.5% of all R&D investment in the Netherlands.

fed. Additionally, that knowledge can be exported

More than three-quarters involves expenditure

to megacities in other parts of the world. This often

on the company’s own activities or on outsourced

occurs as part of so-called turnkey solutions in

activities. Around two-thirds of the R&D investment

which the greenhouse construction, the complete

was made by businesses outside the primary sector,

equipment and even the cultivation expertise are

particularly companies active in the breeding and

delivered from the Netherlands. In this way the

propagation of seeds and young plants. The sector’s

horticultural cluster contributes to the ‘Sufficient

total annual investment in digitalisation, and how

and safe food in the world for everyone’ ambition.

many businesses invest in it, is not known. In order to answer this question, we must first define what

In the ‘Feeding and Greening the Megacities’

is understood by ‘digitalisation’. This vision is a

strategy, the Dutch greenhouse horticulture sector

contribution to this definition.

therefore needs to shift its focus from producing lots of vegetables, flowers and plants to producing

3.2 The ‘Feeding and Greening the Megacities’ strategy

lots of knowledge. Developing, recording and

Dutch greenhouse horticulture excels in a number

far-reaching digitalisation in the sector and in

of related areas. The sector has the knowledge and


using that knowledge and innovation will require

skill to realise large production quantities extremely efficiently. It means that Dutch flowers fly all over

‘Feeding and Greening the Megacities’ consists of

the world, and Dutch vegetables are transported

three lines:

throughout Europe. At the same time, Dutch green knowledge and horticultural technology is in great

• Number one in knowledge & innovation

demand. ‘Made in Holland’ is a quality mark in

• Selling products and services to (residents of )

greenhouse horticulture.

Western Europe • Selling concepts internationally

But this top position is no longer a given. Production for far-flung markets is outdated for

Together, they ensure a vital, healthy and

sustainability reasons. In addition, other producing

sustainable future for the Dutch greenhouse

companies now possess more and more knowledge,

horticulture cluster.

so they are easily able to realise large production quantities themselves. ‘Feeding and Greening the Megacities’ is the answer to this new situation. The idea behind this strategy, developed by Martin van Gogh (Batenburg Techniek, Economic Board ZuidHolland, Greenport West-Holland), is that Dutch greenhouse horticulture has a strong commitment to knowledge and innovation. The sector needs to remain (or become) number one in areas such as nutrition & health, plant components, and technical systems. With this knowledge, megacities


Figure 1 Feeding and Greening the Megacities

3.2.1 Number 1 in knowledge and innovation

according to some, has already lost it. There are

The first line of ‘Feeding and Greening the

within the sector, government policy, and other

Megacities’ is number 1 in knowledge & innovation,

countries placing more of a focus on knowledge

or, better put, back to number 1. In the mid-20th

and innovation. In the field of vertical farming,

century, the Netherlands grew to become an

for example, other countries are now ahead of the

internationally leading horticultural country.

Netherlands, and more and more often, innovative

This mainly came about because different parties

horticultural solutions are coming from distant

worked together to develop new knowledge,

countries. The US tech industry has also discovered

particularly with regard to cultivation and crops. At

food production in controlled environments as a

the same time, the sector was able to convert this

potential revenue model.

various reasons for this, such as fragmentation

knowledge into many different innovations. For decades the Dutch sector’s leading position This meant that for a long time, the Netherlands

meant an economic value, not just a symbolic one.

was a model for sectors in other countries. What

The sector will therefore need to once again place

came from the Netherlands was good, because it

its full focus on knowledge and innovation in order

was only in the Netherlands that a lot of serious

to achieve a healthy future.

research was conducted. But the Netherlands is now in danger of losing that position – or,


3.2.2 Selling products and services to (residents of ) Western Europe

better market position.

Production for the Western European market

3.2.3 Selling concepts internationally

appears easy to achieve. After all, the Dutch

The third line of ‘Feeding and Greening the

horticultural sector has been doing it for decades.

Megacities’ is selling concepts internationally.

But appearances can be deceptive. There are

‘International’ refers here to countries and regions

now new circumstances that call for a different

outside Western Europe. Some of these countries


and regions were once important sales territories for Dutch greenhouse horticulture, but that position is now under pressure.

First of all, the sector has changed. Businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to source staff who possess green fingers and green knowledge,

Local production has many advantages for

and this trend is expected to continue. As a result,

countries and regions. For example, it reduces

horticultural businesses are becoming increasingly

the number of kilometres travelled, a country is

dependent on green knowledge that is stored

then less dependent on third countries for its food

‘somewhere’, for example in smart devices, in order

supply, and it means that available resources (such

to ensure healthy business operations.

as money, labour and raw materials) can be better utilised.

On top of that, the market has changed. Producing for auctions only is a thing of the past; if businesses

Green knowledge is required for local production,

are to survive, they must have a good knowledge of

and this is often still insufficient. As a result, there

their market and their products. This enables them

is great interest in the green knowledge held by

to produce better, and to develop new products or

Dutch greenhouse horticulture. There’s a reason

even new business models. Acquiring and applying

why Dutch businesses and young talents are

this data is not something that humans can do:

welcomed with open arms in distant countries!

the amount of data is too large and the range of As a result, there is also a growing market for

potential connections is too complex.

solutions that enable Dutch knowledge on The world has changed too. Buyers, consumers

things such as cultivation to be adapted for local

and citizens set requirements for a product’s

production. That knowledge might be present

sustainability. They want it to be obvious that a

in people’s heads but, as mentioned earlier, the

product has been produced safely and cleanly, and

Netherlands itself is in desperate need of those

preferably by a reliable local grower. Digitalisation

heads for itself. Digitalisation is therefore a better

plays a role here too. Because smart solutions

answer, and more marketable too.

enable production to become more sustainable and to become transparent, and new earning models

3.3 Horticultural scenarios

can be developed as well.

In 2020, the crisis organisation Coronacrisis Tuinbouw ( developed

In summary, digitalisation is essential in order to

four scenarios for the future of the horticultural

be able to continue to provide the modern Western

industry. The scenarios serve as tools for individual

European market with healthy, beautiful Dutch

business owners in the horticultural industry:

produce. Smart, connected solutions will mean

they are intended for reflection on the future of

that the Dutch horticultural industry can continue

each business and to make decisions regarding

to produce and sell, with better conditions and a

the business strategy. The authors, who include


business owners, knowledge institutions and

If this scenario becomes reality, it will have

government bodies, call them ‘extreme, yet

the following consequences for horticultural

plausible, futures for the horticultural cluster’.


There is a place for the ‘Feeding and Greening the

• Food crop cultivation: Big, fast, hard

Megacities’ strategy in each of the four scenarios;

• Ornamental crops: Number 1 in the world

only the exact role of the Netherlands and the

• Starting Materials: Multinationals lead the way

implementation will vary according to the scenario.

• Technology & Delivery: Maximum internationall

The four scenarios are:

3.3.2 International corporate responsibility

• Competing globally

In the ‘International corporate responsibility’

• International corporate responsibility

scenario, there is a great deal of international

• Individual national operations

cooperation for complex cross-border tasks. But the

• Regional co-operation

corona crisis has deepened the existing ideological and cultural fault line between Europe, the United

3.3.1 Competing globally

States and China. Governments have made a

In the ‘Competing Globally’ scenario, countries

massive effort to redistribute resources (via a

around the world have decided to abolish existing

special tax on the rich and on assets).

import duties and barriers to import in order to stimulate global free trade. This results in a

The government facilitates businesses taking a

small group of extremely wealthy consumers. In

sustainable approach via through tax incentives,

emerging markets (Asia, Africa), the urban middle

subsidies, and certified quality marks. Companies

class is growing. The world also has an increased

enter into strategic alliances, and capital can be

underclass hovering around subsistence level.

mobilised for growth through mergers and joint ventures. The strict requirements on working

Global climate accords are a dead end.

conditions and remuneration for migrant

Sustainability is barely on the political agenda

workers result in a boost to the robotisation and

anymore. Big companies are engaged in cutthroat

computerisation fields. This is strengthened by the

global competition. The flourishing of global digital

decreasing supply of migrant workers, as they are

platforms, which account for a large proportion of

able to find work in their own regions.

sales, is driving developments. These platforms are the direct link between major producers and buyers

If this scenario becomes reality, it will have

(both consumers and processing enterprises).

the following consequences for horticultural businesses:

For this reason, governments are now entirely focused on creating a global level playing field.

• Food crop cultivation: Europe’s greenest

The Dutch government is contributing too, by


facilitating the business community in this way.

• Ornamental crops: Healthy and sustainable,

All attention is focused on supporting economic



• Starting materials: Natural pharmacists • Technology & Delivery: Competing innovation centres


3.3.3 Individual national operations

and economic power. They are focused on a

In the ‘Individual national operations’ scenario,

reliable supply of strategic goods and services to

the global economy is in depression. Countries

their citizens, such as water, energy, education,

fell deeper into debt, creating a new debt crisis.

transport, and food as well. A core EU has emerged

Solidarity in the European Union failed to last,

as an alliance of regions from the Netherlands,

with the union disintegration into a Northern and

Germany, Flanders and Denmark; countries with

a Southern Union. The middle class in the West is

similar ambitions and interests. Regionalised

under enormous pressure, purchasing power is

markets are causing a major shift from business-


to-business to business-to-consumer. Consumers demand transparency. This means that businesses

Taxes on profit and corporation taxes are reduced

are forced to enter into regional alliances that make

in order to improve the Netherlands’ business

a verifiable contribution to a stable regional social

climate and international competitiveness. In

structure and circular economy. In this world there

order to survive, many companies choose to open

is a wide variety of technological developments

branches abroad and to produce for local markets,

underway, each of them adapted to regional needs

often under local branding. International trade is

and normative preferences. This is an obstacle

mainly limited to neighbouring countries, markets

to further globalisation, and to the big tech

are smaller, production chains are less efficient

companies that go along with it. In its place there is

and economic growth is slower. There is no joint

enormous expansion of the open source principle:

approach to sustainability. The lack of scale means

freely-accessible knowledge that is developed

that fewer specialised technologies are available.


Companies are focused on the short term. Longterm investments are too risky and go into decline.

If this scenario becomes reality, it will have the following consequences for horticultural businesses:

If this scenario becomes reality, it will have the following consequences for horticultural

• Food crop cultivation: High-tech or high-touch


• Ornamental crops: High-touch or high-tech • Starting Materials: Breeding becomes political

• Food Crop Horticulture: a German among

• Technology & Delivery: Collaborating for



• Ornamental crops: Everyone for themselves • Starting Materials: Local knowledge development • Technology & Delivery: International sales even at short notice

3.3.4 Regional co-operation In the ‘Regional Co-operation’ scenario, governments and consumers are averse to global trade flows. It’s not ownership that counts, but the experience of the authentic product. A clean living environment prevails. These are mainly regions that have seized political


4. Digitalisation in the horticultural sector 4.1 Digitalisation: Three levels

automatically. And it’s easy for the grower to

Ask 100 experts to give you a definition of

import the trading information into the accounting

digitalisation, and you’ll get 100 different

system and to analyse which roses bring in the

definitions. Some will see it as a collection of

most in which period. This is an example of level 2.

technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and processors, others as a series of business processes

But development didn’t stop there. There are

controlled by computers, and still others will

now more and more companies are focusing on

believe that robots are taking over the world. In any

e-business, for example. The simplest examples are

case, what all these interpretations make clear is

online stores selling flowers, which have processes

that there’s a lot involved in digitalisation.

such as purchasing and distribution that are fully automated based on market information. They

For a common goal and a common vision, it’s

cross the boundaries of their own sub-sector and

important that we all have the same understanding

even consider how breeding can be used to develop

of digitalisation.

products with a longer shelf life. So this is an example of digital transformation.

Digitalisation can be described at various levels: The horticultural cluster certainly still faces 1. Digitisation is the conversion of information

challenges at various levels, and these challenges

from a physical to a digital format. It involves the

vary in nature. The challenges at levels 1 and 2 are

conversion of something physical into a digital

about developing the right techniques, for example:

form, i.e. ‘zeros and ones’.

how can a camera identify individual flowers in a

2. Digitalisation is the use of digital information

greenhouse? On the level of digital transformation,

to set up processes. It involves (steps in)

the questions are more about chains, revenue

the existing process being digitalised or

models, internationalisation and knowledge


development. For example: how can the Dutch

3. Digital transformation involves a fundamental change to the business model, chain processes

horticultural cluster capitalise on knowledge about a healthy crop?

and business processes and the type of employees and the skills they require via the

Later in this document we will discuss the various

application of technological innovations.

challenges in more detail. Unless otherwise indicated, the word ‘digitalisation’ will be used in

The three levels of digitalisation can also be

the sense of all three definitions given above.

identified in the horticultural sector. Handwritten auction paperwork was mentioned in the introduction to this document. It’s now a thing of the past. Information on batches of flowers or vegetables isn’t written on carbon paper anymore; it’s stored and sent digitally. Level 1, then. Digitalising the information on, for example, a cart of roses, enabled new processes. For example, the auction can follow a lot digitally and send invoices


Last year Kate was hired by a medium-sized rose nursery. She works there as a member of the IT staff. At least, that’s how the position was described in the job advertisement. But she sees herself as much more of a ‘digital transformer’. Not because it sounds cooler, but because her work doesn’t actually have anything to do with IT. OK, she works with computers a lot. But when she talks about IT Kate means things like systems administration and application management. While the challenges faced by the rose nursery are very different. The business still has a lot of paperwork, for example. Leave request forms, sickness registration, surely all of that could be done digitally? And that makes the next step quite a bit easier too: being able to process information within the company in an even better way. Things like planning and forecasting. Her dream is that the rose nursery will become an e-nursery, that the business won’t just sell big consignments of roses to anonymous purchasers, but will also venture into the events business. That means smaller consignments but with bigger margins, growing only what the customer has ordered. And that calls for a different kind of co-operation within the chain, for example with an events agency and a transport company. According to Kate, this is precisely where digitalisation is crucial.

4.2 Digitalisation in the horticultural industry: the state of play

chain integration and short chains. This is another

The horticultural industry made an early start with

for decades now. The Electronic Delivery Form

digitalisation. The first climate computers were

replaced the old hard copy auction paperwork (that

launched in the 1970s, enabling growers to manage

growers and the trade channel used to exchange

the climate inside the greenhouse. In order to do

information), and for years now traders have been

this, climate computers are connected to sensors

able to use Distance Selling (in which the trade

(for the input of variables such as temperature and

channel and the trade exchange information and

wind speed) and to climate equipment (such as the

can perform transactions) to buy flowers for the

central heating boiler and the windows). Thanks to

auction while in their own workplaces.

area in which horticulture has been digitalised

this, it wasn’t long before horticulture reached the The fact that the horticultural cluster made an

second level of digitalisation.

early start with digitalisation makes it a difficult The climate computers were and are used by just

sector for other businesses to enter. After all, many

one link in the chain: the production companies.

solutions have already been developed, tested,

But digitalisation is nonetheless able to cross the

and developed even further. A grower already has

borders of the various links. It’s sometimes said

a lot of devices and processes in his or her business

that silos are disappearing thanks to digitalisation.

that collect data. It is estimated that an average

Information exchange is essential if the various

grower has at least 80 to 100 different digital data

links are to collaborate and co-ordinate smoothly.

sources. These range from the climate computer

For example, a transporter prefers to know as soon

(which collects many hundreds of different data

as possible how many tomatoes will be delivered or

points, often every five minutes) to various sensors,

have been sold: after all, this information allows for

models, auction and sales data, soil and crop

better scheduling, which in turn means lower costs

samples, labour registration details, pesticides,

and better service provision.

crop measurements and harvest details. The links between these devices are limited, meaning that the grower is required to combine the many data

So digitalisation is a precondition for things like


sources, often by hand or using Excel exports and imports. But in recent years the number of entrants to the sector has been increasing. These new players have specialised knowledge in, for example, one of the digital techniques (e.g. drones), and are therefore able to deliver added value to the horticultural cluster. was established in 1999 as a joint venture between WUR and Hoogendoorn Growth Management. The objective of the business is to store and compare crop and cultivation data. In the early years this mainly involved comparing data within crop segments. To do so, growers within a particular crop segment give access to fellow growers and consultants, enabling them to view the data remotely. Models were also developed during this period, for things such as harvest forecasts for tomatoes and the growth of potted chrysanthemums and poinsettias. The company has had an API (Application Programming Interface) for years now, which makes it very easy to store and combine data from different sources. It allows the grower to combine a lot of data very easily, for example data captured by various sensors. Additionally, with permission from the owner (the grower), developers can easily create and test new models.

4.3 The chain

obviously important for internal processes such as

Here we will consider some of the links in the

labour management, energy and logistics.

horticultural chain and ask the question: what role

4.3.2 Propagation

does digitalisation play in these businesses?

Propagation businesses (or nurseries) grow seeds

4.3.1 Breeding

or cuttings into plant material. Logistics, planning,

For breeding companies, the main customers are

reliability and a healthy crop are essential factors.

production companies both in the Netherlands and

As a result, for these businesses digitalisation is

overseas. For this reason, digitalisation is largely

mainly aimed at optimising internal processes and

aimed at developing seeds and propagating plant

storing data during cultivation so it can be passed

material that is the best fit with the wishes of the

on to the next steps in the chain.

growers and of their customers. This therefore concerns issues such as market information (i.e.

4.3.3 (Technical) supply companies

the best possible analysis of market developments)

(Technical) supply companies, such as fertiliser

and product characteristics (phenotyping), such

and pesticide suppliers and climate computer

as appearance, resistance to disease, reliability,

developers, are mainly focused on developing the

and use of important resources (such as energy,

best possible range for cultivation businesses,

pesticides and labour). In addition, digitalisation is

and on selling that range. Purchasing, logistics/


distribution and sales are therefore essential.

of available resources (such as energy, labour and

Digitalisation plays an important role in the R&D

water) is an essential part of this. The growers’

process for technical suppliers.

unions are also taking steps towards investigating possibilities involving digitalisation, such as the use

4.3.4 Project developers and greenhouse builders

of harvesting robots.

Greenhouse builders have increasingly become project developers in recent years. Their

4.3.6 Trade, transport, packaging companies and sales

greenhouses are no longer simply steel and

For businesses active in trade and transport, and

glass constructions; they now include plastic

for packaging businesses, planning and reliability

greenhouses and high-tech buildings (indoor farms)

are essential. For this reason, digitalisation at

that enable growers to achieve optimal production.

these companies is mainly focused on these

This means that digitalisation is part of the product

aspects. For packaging companies involved in sales,

portfolio for these companies, as well as a tool for

digitalisation plays a role when it comes to market

developing new projects.

information, among other things.

4.3.5 Production companies Various developments and trends have led to production companies increasingly becoming chain partners in recent years. For example, they have banded together in growers’ unions, becoming trading partners, or even made collective price agreements with retailers. As a result, it has become increasingly important for production companies (i.e. growers) to be able to deliver a reliable product according to a reliable schedule. At the same time, the cost price remains an important factor for production companies. The efficient use

The Hortivation foundation is focused on technical innovations and knowledge management in greenhouse horticulture. Hortivation, a collaboration between AVAG and TNO, developed a calculation tool for designing greenhouses: CASTA. With CASTA, greenhouse designers and builders can make calculations for the greenhouse structure, for example involving safety and light transmission. Calculations can be made to ensure that the greenhouse design meets Dutch standards for greenhouse design and construction. These calculations take into account the climatic conditions at the place the greenhouse will be built, as well as the crop to be cultivated. Cultivation in the Saudi Arabian desert calls for a different type of construction than cultivation in a temperate Dutch climate.


Fresh fruit and vegetable sales are increasingly conducted online and digitally. Customers place orders via online stores, and robots ensure that the correct products are selected for shipment. This is how it works at Van Gelder fruit & vegetables in Ridderkerk, for example. In 2019 as much as 98.4% of orders were made via the online store – around half a million orders in total. There are still a few customers who order by phone or fax, but fewer and fewer all the time. Alongside companies that have been operational for decades – such as Van Gelder, which was founded in the middle of the last century – there are many new entrants too. Startup Vers & Vers is one example. Individual customers can buy fruit and vegetables via an app, available for download from the App Store. “It’s easy to order your fresh produce using the ultramodern app.” And then there are businesses that specifically focus on startups in the fresh produce sector. One of these is Hollander. “In order to meet the specific demands of e-commerce, our entire operation is organised around a highly variable range and is prepared for any growth spurts that might come from start-up and scale-up customers. All your fresh produce fulfilment is quickly adaptable and scalable, while daily operations are guaranteed.”

4.3.7 Retail Retail is the most important sales channel for

4.4 Challenges for the Dutch horticultural sector

Dutch greenhouse horticulture. Retail businesses

What consequences do the changing world and the

are specialised in providing as many consumers as

‘Feeding and Greening the Megacities’ strategies

possible with the widest possible range of products.

have on the practice of horticulture, and especially

The retail focus is therefore on market information,

for issues where digitalisation could play a large(r)

logistics and distribution, and delivery reliability,


amongst other areas.

4.4.1 Green knowledge 4.3.8 Consumer

Digitalisation in horticulture can be divided into

For a long time the horticultural industry had no

‘green’ and ‘grey’ digitalisation. Green digitalisation

direct business relationship with the consumer,

refers to the digitalisation of everything related

but in recent years more and more initiatives

to the crop itself. This includes things like the

have begun in which consumers and growers do

length of the crop, leaf area, number of flowers,

directly collaborate and do business. For example,

and the height of first flowering cluster. These

increasing numbers of growers now have their own

measurements are still mostly done by hand. Grey

online store or professional shop by the roadside.

digitalisation refers to all peripheral installations,

2020’s corona crisis reinforced this effect, with

such as the climate computer, the sorting machine,

many consumers buying flowers and vegetables

and the installation for internal transport of

directly from the producer as a show of support.

cultivation tables in the greenhouse.

An important trend here is that consumers want

There are still major steps to be made in the field

to know how a product has been produced and

of green digitalisation. This is remarkable: after

transported throughout the entire chain.

all, cultivation starts with a green product, and thus knowledge of plant physiological processes.


However, there are fewer and fewer people who

which can be used in future to predict how the

possess green knowledge (the number of ‘green

crop will respond. By combining this crop data

students’ is falling), while internationally there is

with the aforementioned data relating to labour,

most definitely more demand for it.

price-making, (predicted) demand and climate

One solution to this is data-driven cultivation.

measurements, a model can be created to help the

In data-driven cultivation, various cultivation

business owner with complex decisions. Artificial

measures are advised based on observations,

Intelligence (AI) can play a major role here; after

data, forecasts and interpretations. Such a system

all, it involves combining large amounts of data

also has the advantage that the observations

and many different factors all of which impact on

and interpretations are always carried out in the

operational management outcomes.

same manner. Data-driven cultivation can serve as the basis for autonomous cultivation, in which

Obtaining the data is a question of observation

cultivation measures and possibly other actions

and recording. Sometimes these are automated

too are controlled and executed (more or less)

and take place within a short time frame (e.g.

entirely without human intervention. Instead of

climate data recorded every five minutes). Other

having to be involved with every single action and

measurements are still performed entirely

decision, the business owner or staff can focus on

manually, for example crop measurements such

the exceptions. Green knowledge will be required

as number of bunches, flowering height, head

to make the decisions for a long time yet, but if the

thickness, etc. This is very labour-intensive work

standard matters are sorted out automatically,

and means that only a limited number of plants can

fewer people with green knowledge are required. It

be measured.

also makes ‘remote’ cultivation easy, so a business can, for example, control its cultivation location in

The use of digital technology can offer a solution

Morocco or Spain remotely from the Netherlands.

here. The possibilities include sensors, image recognition, artificial intelligence, digital twins and

So as the name says, data-driven cultivation

blockchain. Important preconditions are the need

requires data. More specifically: data about the

for non-invasive methods, secure storage, data

crop and the environment in which it is cultivated,

ownership, and privacy.

as well as about matters such as demand, price and labour requirements. In other words: how does

The recording of data also enables the creation of

the crop react to changed conditions, for instance

new products and concepts possible, and thus new

due to changes in the weather or because the

revenue models. This also includes new forms of

crop is watered? This data needs to be recorded

education and consultancy.

and then serves as the basis for a crop model,

In 2020, the second edition of the Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge was held. The ‘remote tomatogrowing’ competition was won by ‘The Automatoes’. It is noteworthy that the team achieved similar production to a reference team of growers, but at a lower cost. The big winner, however, was greenhouse horticulture, because it enables more efficient cultivation. Dutch horticulture can lead the way in this development, according to tomato grower Ted Duijvestijn, a member the reference team: “This development can’t be stopped. However, you can speed it up through targeted investment. To avoid it developing willy-nilly, it could be tacked collectively for the time being.” (Source: Onder Glas, 11 June 2020)


4.4.2 Internationalisation

4.4.3 Short chains

The Netherlands is not the only country that

The internet’s creators saw the medium as

cultivates horticultural products. Spain, for

the realisation of democracy: with an Internet

example, has been an important European

connection, everyone has access to knowledge, and

production area for some time now. This means

everyone is able to publish. Whether that idea has

that Spain is not a direct competitor, partly due

become reality is a question we will set aside here.

to the fact that the range offered by the two

However, the fact is that digital solutions enable

countries can be complementary: for example,

producers to make direct contact with buyers,

supermarkets sell Spanish tomatoes in winter and

leading to new entrants in, for example, the hotel

Dutch tomatoes for the rest of the year. Dutch

industry (Airbnb), the taxi industry (Uber) and the

growers are increasingly choosing to begin or take

music industry (Spotify). Providers are also able to

over cultivation locations in Spain – literally remote

see which other parties are active in the region.


In recent years various initiatives have emerged in the horticultural sector. Koppert Cress, for

There is something similar at play when considering

example, uses photos on Instagram in order to

distant destinations. In recent decades, for

know – assisted by image recognition – which

example, a large number of Dutch businesses

restaurants are serving cress.

have started cultivation in places like China or

There is also an increasing number of digital

Mexico. The products there do not complement the

marketplaces. These are often small-scale local

Dutch range; they serve a different market. And

initiatives – and this while an e-commerce platform

there, too, there is a need for Dutch cultivation

has great advantages for the suppliers, such

knowledge. For example, a few years back the

as better insights into price-setting, customer

Chinese greenhouse in Bleiswijk was launched; a

journey, valuation, and opportunities for (product)

project aimed at increasing Dutch knowledge on

innovation. Cautious efforts to scale up these sorts

producing under Chinese cultivation conditions.

of possibilities are currently underway.

Information (on the crop and on cultivation

Digital techniques such as data exchange,

measures) needs to be transmitted quickly, reliably

algorithms, blockchain, data management/

and securely when it comes to remote cultivation.

warehouse systems and linking to cultivation

In addition, more knowledge of local growing

systems obviously play a major role in the

conditions is required, for example so that crop

realisation of these types of digital marketplaces.

models can be adjusted.

Young people and first-time buyers like to have indoor plants, but they’re not keen to spend half a day in a garden centre looking for the right one. Because what should you choose? And what’s involved in plant care? Axel Persoon, son of a plant grower, had these younger, inexperienced plant-lovers in mind when he came up with the idea for Plantsome. Plantsome is a combination of an online store and an app, aimed at making the purchase and care of indoor plants as easy, accessible and fun as possible. Established in 2017, the business has now spread beyond Dutch borders and operates in places such as Belgium, Germany and Canada.


4.4.4 Responding to consumer demand

saying that market access and market knowledge

Car manufacturer Henry Ford apparently once

are essential. Until now that access has mainly

said, “You can have it in any colour you want,

been via trading partners. The same is largely true

as long as it’s black.” Mass production made

of knowledge; trading partners are often the ones

products affordable for the general public. And

who hold knowledge on demand. With, for example,

mass production was also what enabled the Dutch

short chains, this system could be (partly) broken.

horticultural industry to grow. Market-oriented production also means being able But consumers have changed. They no longer

to steer and predict production. Great strides have

want a choice of black, black or black; they want a

already been made in this area. For example, crop

customised product that’s suited to their individual

models are able to predict how a crop will respond

needs and wishes. At the same time, it’s in the

to cultivation measures. This is then used as a

interest of the one who is selling to manufacture

basis for predicting production, and cultivation

and sell a wide range of products.

measures can be selected with the aim of speeding up or slowing down production. However, these

This has led to the rise of a new phenomenon:

crop models are still very much in their infancy.

mass individualisation, which is a combination of

Obviously production can be steered using the

customisation and mass production. For example,

existing crop computers. Additionally, tools such

customers can buy a customised can of Coca-Cola

as image recognition can be used to identify the

or design their own Nike sports shoes.

precise moment that flowers should be pollinated or harvested to ensure optimal shelf life.

The horticultural industry has increasingly segmented its production in recent decades.

Both consumers and society are making

Consumers can now choose from countless

increasingly strict demands on both products and

different shapes and flavours of tomatoes. True

production. These demands relate to issues such as

mass customisation is not yet economically viable

sustainability, safety, food waste and transparency.

when it comes to products, but the changes to

Digitalisation can play a major role in this area

the (sales) chain do present opportunities. With

too, for example by safeguarding processes and

e-commerce applications, for example, a consumer

information, realising more efficient production,

would have the option of choosing from products

and developing new revenue models.

from various suppliers, so would no longer be reliant on the range available on the supermarket

4.4.6 Using resources more efficiently


For a long time, high production meant high profits, which is why the Dutch horticultural industry

4.4.5 Optimising sales

has long been focused on increasing production.

In recent decades, it has become increasingly

However, with the current resources it appears

important for producers of horticultural products

that the ceiling has been reached: the production

to produce what the market demands (or can

realised by Dutch businesses is already at the

accommodate). This is a cultural shift compared to

highest level. In addition, if more is produced, the

the time when the auctions could still direct and

produce needs to be harvested. This requires staff,

have a correcting effect on the market.

which means additional costs. Labour costs are already the biggest expense production companies,

A number of factors are required for market-

and this could mean a threat to the international

oriented production. To begin with, it goes without

position of the Dutch horticultural industry. As a


result, high production no longer automatically

attention paid to biodiversity. A healthy ecosystem

means high profits. Unless a robot can harvest the

in and around the greenhouse is beneficial for

produce, but more on that later.

the crop and helps the horticultural sector to improve its image. Monitoring insects is one way

So the goal isn’t to achieve high production in itself;

to improve biodiversity. This monitoring still needs

it’s also about the product:resources ratio. In other

to be done by humans for the time being, making

words, efficient cultivation with the lowest possible

it labour-intensive. The measurements perform

use of things such as water, fertilisers, energy or

many functions: first of all, obviously, making any

pesticides. The West-Holland horticultural cluster,

necessary adjustments, and secondly they can

for example, has agreed to use 30% less energy by

be shared with public parties. This information-

2040. These types of savings require the use of data

sharing can be carried out in many ways, for

and models to enable crops to be managed better.

example via a digital map of a larger area.

In addition, the emergence of Artificial Intelligence

Digital techniques enable fertilisers and pesticides

(AI) will mean that the optimal use of resources

to be applied in a more targeted manner. For

comes under even more careful consideration.

example, image recognition (e.g. by a harvesting

Once the algorithms are better and are able to take

robot) can indicate the place in the greenhouse

a lot more factors into account that growers are

where there’s an infestation. This can be controlled

currently able to manage in their heads, production

by, for example, a robot or a drone. At Koppert

(expressed in, for example, kilograms per unit of

Cress, drones fly amongst the crops creating ‘moth

water or energy used) will increase even further.

confetti’ where necessary!

4.4.7 Sustainability The Dutch horticultural industry wants to be climate neutral by 2040, and thus reduce its CO2 footprint to zero. Efforts are underway in various areas, include regional heat networks and the availability of CO2. Good demand and supply management is the starting point in a so-called Multi Commodity Smart Grid. This is necessary for both electricity and heat, in order to be able to do more with the sustainable energy sources that are available, and to make optimal use of the infrastructure. Sustainability is not only about the use of resources. For example, there is increasing

Spot protection of crops is both more efficient and better for the crop. Working spot-by-spot is precisely what drones are good at. When the PATS base station detects an infestation, a drone goes into action. “The drone is sent after the insect and eliminates it mechanically in mid-air, where it’s at its most vulnerable,” according to the PATS website. “This prevents the pests spreading further through the greenhouse.”


4.4.8 Unmanned growing

extreme case, the crop is completely unmanned. It

The availability of people with green knowledge is

is certainly conceivable that Dutch growers don’t

one of the challenges faced by Dutch growers, but

yet want fully unmanned cultivation. In some

other countries suffer from shortages too. In the

foreign countries, however, there is a need; after

Netherlands, these people and their knowledge

all, less green knowledge is available there.

are required in order to stay at number one, while in other parts of the world, these people and their

This creates striking tensions. Dutch growers

knowledge are needed for increased, better, and

possess a high level of knowledge, so the growers

safer production.

have high demands for new solutions and will only want to apply them if they – according to their own

This means that one of the directions that

feeling and insight – perform better than what the

digitalisation is taking is to enable cultivation using

growers are doing now. This makes it difficult for

as few people as possible. In other words, to be able

suppliers to develop new solutions for the Dutch

to deploy people who possess the required (green)

market, so developments proceed more slowly than

knowledge as efficiently as possible.

they might.

Labour- and time-intensive activities therefore

At the same time, overseas there is a great hunger

need to be supported as much as possible or, where

for new knowledge and applications. In order to be

possible, taken over by digital solutions. These

able to serve these customers, Dutch innovation

digital solutions are often able to perform those

needs to stay at a high level so we can continue to

activities faster, cheaper and more consistently.

develop and test here, and subsequently introduce

This includes ‘unmanned growing’.

our products to other countries.

Two important areas can be distinguished here. The first of these is the support of decisions in the cultivation and production process. This is what is now often referred to as ‘autonomous growing’. It involves the use of software and models to do things such as control the climate computer based on observational data recorded by sensors in the greenhouse. The second component is carrying out the physical work. This refers to things like picking tomatoes and roses, and making crop observations. Only when both areas come together can we speak of ‘unmanned growing’. ‘Unmanned growing’ doesn’t mean that people will no longer be involved in cultivation in the Netherlands or further afield. There are different levels, so, for example, it could be that only ‘simple’ repetitive tasks are computerised: this can be viewed as the beginning of ‘unmanned growing’. This system can be expanded step by step to encompass increasingly complex tasks. In the most


Dutch growers have a uniquely green thumb. They get the best results in the greenhouse. The idea of autonomous growing is that these ‘thumbs’ are entered into a computer, enabling good vegetables and flowers to be cultivated in other parts of the world too. For example, the company Blue Radix has the Crop Controller, which is able to make decisions based on local information (such as the weather and greenhouse climate) and existing green knowledge. An operator watches from a distance. Depending on the selected level, the grower is still able to make changes from the location itself (in this case the Crop Controller plays a supporting role). At the highest Crop Controller level, the grower on location only needs to keep track from his or her desk and intervene in exceptional situations.

4.4.9 People

therefore needs close collaboration between, for

A successful digital transformation needs more

example, companies and educational institutions.

than suitable technologies; it also calls for people

In addition, there’s a need to create awareness of

with the right competences. This means not only

the consequences of these new competences. The

the competences of current business owners and

internal organisation of, for example, a company,

staff, but also the inflow of new employees with the

will also need to be adapted. Here it must be

appropriate competences. This relates to employees

taken into account that we work with both the

with different education levels, from lower

‘frontrunners’ and the ‘pack’, each of which require a

secondary professional education and intermediate

different approach.

vocational education employees who work with the new technology, through to university graduates

It is also important to realise that digitalisation

who design the robots, Artificial Intelligence (AI) or

doesn’t necessarily mean fewer jobs, but it

new revenue models.

does mean different jobs. For the horticultural sector and for society in general, it’s important

In all cases, it is essential to know which

not to forget the people in the old jobs that are

competences are needed for the technology of

disappearing and who don’t ‘automatically’ have

the future and how these can be acquired. This

sufficient skills to get to work in the new jobs.


5. The future of digitalisation in the horticultural industry As set out earlier in this document, digitalisation

threshold of digital applications, and questions

is going to have major consequences the entire

from buyers, at this level a joint approach is not

horticultural chain. Not only with regard to


individual business processes, but also in terms of revenue models and chains. Some of these

5.2 Digitalisation

consequences are in the hands of the sector itself;

The second level is digitalisation. This is the use of

for example, the decision of whether or not to buy

digital information to set up processes. It involves

a harvesting robot is one for the individual business

(steps in) the existing process being digitalised or

owner. But for other consequences, it’s important


for the sector itself to retain in control, so it can remain the world’s number one.

One feature of this is that new and existing techniques are combined. A cucumber harvesting

To clarify this, we will look at the three

robot is an example of this. The robot uses things

levels of digitalisation described earlier (see

such as sensors, vision technology, mechatronics,

4.1): Digitisation, Digitalisation and Digital

artificial intelligence and cloud storage to recognise

Transformation, with relevant developments and

and assess the cucumbers’ ripeness. The cucumbers

collective actions for each level. We will use this

are harvested using mechatronics (a combination

structure here too when outlining areas for special

of mechanisation and electronics), a 3D-printed


gripper, and a laser knife. To transport the robot and the harvest, techniques such as automated

5.1 Digitisation

guided vehicles (AGV), battery and charging

Digitisation is the conversion of information from

technology, and positioning technology are needed.

a physical to a digital format. In the horticultural chain, this has already happened to a large extent: auction paperwork has been delivered digitally for decades, digital images of ripe flowers are available, and growers can print out nice, neat tables and graphs of the greenhouse climate. This first level of digitisation is an important precondition for the other levels. But for various reasons including the sector’s strength, the low

The GearVision by Gearbox Innovations is a noteworthy example of combining technologies. Using vision technology, big data and artificial intelligence, amongst others, the GearVision analyses produce on a conveyor belt. Each fruit is assessed for moisture, length, colour, possible damage, and misshapenness, amongst other things. The device is also able to trace this information back to the location in the greenhouse. In the words of Gearbox Innovations: ‘The harvested produce, a tomato, cucumber, sweet pepper, or even a kalanchoe, gerbera or rose is a sensor’.


The technologies are also intertwined; technology

‘digitalisation’. ‘Smart’ was originally short for ‘Self-

developed for one application can be used in

Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology’,

another. A smaller, cheaper and more energy-

but is commonly known as ‘smart’ through the

efficient temperature sensor can be put to use in a

idea that previously inanimate objects are able to

greenhouse for breeding, growing, or in an indoor

talk to us and even steer our behaviour. But what’s

farm. An improved camera can be used in various

more important for smart technologies is that the

places where crop characteristics are determined.

devices concerned are connected, for example to each other or to the Internet.

This makes smart applications possible. Wageningen University & Research, for example, uses the term ‘Smart Horticulture’ instead of

Richard grows cucumbers on five hectares. It’s a great crop, but it’s labour-intensive – cucumbers grow quickly, and a lot of crop operations are required. Having a robot harvest the cucumbers would make a very big difference, so Richard is watching the harvesting robot’s development with interest. The robot uses a camera to take a photo of the crop, identifies any cucumbers that may be there, and then assesses which ones are big and heavy enough to harvest. Cucumbers that are not yet ripe are remembered for next time, and for creating a harvest forecast. The robot uses stereo vision to calculates the distance to the ripe cucumber, and a route free from obstacles. Then a thermal knife cuts the cucumber off at the right spot. The robot then places the cucumber on a harvest cart, which automatically drives to the shed. The harvest cart (a so-called ‘automated guide vehicle’) also charges itself, knows the route to the barn, and avoids striking people and any objects along the way.

On this second level there are already a large

makes cultivation decisions (based on the grower’s

number of horticultural developments, such as the

green knowledge), is a well-known example of this.

harvesting robot mentioned earlier. At the same time, the sector has not yet made full use of the

Decision support can also make a big contribution

opportunities that the second level provides: there

when planning crops based on expected (future)

are more technological possibilities available for

demand. For example, take a pot plant company

meeting the aforementioned challenges facing the

that has many different crop types, pot sizes (and

Dutch horticultural industry. The following themes

therefore cultivation periods), and clients who have

are relevant here:

slightly different requirements. It’s not a simple challenge to properly co-ordinate potting dates,

5.2.1 Decision support

delivery, and spacing, especially if you consider

As explained previously, a shortage of knowledge

that some crops have a cultivation period of a few

and qualified workers means that there is room for

weeks and others have a cultivation period of 1.5

decision support systems for the businesses in the

years. Here, too, the possibilities presented by

chain. Autonomous growing, in which digitalisation

decision support can be put to much better use.


access the right information and making the right

5.2.4 Sales/consumers: Traceability & transparency

decisions. There is now so much data available

Consumers want to know about a product’s origin.

– with yet more to come – that people require

Further development of good tracking & tracing

support to make the right decisions. We’re also

capabilities is required for this. An important factor

seeing this in the logistics and trading companies

here is the data that is captured during the ‘journey’

that work with complex systems.

through the entire chain.

5.2.2 Hardware & mechanisation

5.2.5 Actions required

Digitalisation presents the possibility of far-

The following actions must be taken in the coming

reaching, people-supporting technology. The

years to accelerate the abovementioned themes:

Market-oriented production is dependent on having

harvesting robot is an obvious example. It enables ‘unmanned growing’, with not only the knowledge Digitalising green knowledge

being computerised, but the (physical) labour too.

As mentioned previously, there has still been insufficient green knowledge recorded. This

Hardware and mechanisation can provide support

recording is essential for the effective use of

to people in transport and sales, for example with

decision support systems in cultivation, in

sorting and packing activities, just as they do in


cultivation. Creating awareness

5.2.3 Sensing

Owners of horticultural businesses need to be

In the horticultural chain, a lot of things are

more aware that level 2 digitalisation presents

measured. However, it mostly involves measuring

many untapped opportunities for better yields.

the conditions in which the crop grows (so-called

This awareness will make business owners

‘grey’ digitalisation). The measuring of the crop

into discussion partners for non-sector and/

itself (‘green’ digitalisation) is still in its infancy.

or technological companies that have potential

Developments such as digital twins could make

solutions. It will also give them a better

a major contribution here. The use of new and

understanding of the impact of technologies on

smarter sensors, and the interpretation and

their business, what an appropriate risk profile is,

application of the results they detect, also falls

and with whom they might be able to collaborate.

under the ‘sensing’ theme. This includes new options for measuring possibilities, as well as – for Building collaboration

example – reducing the size of the current sensors

A good ecosystem is a prerequisite for the

so that they can actually be inserted ‘into’ a plant

development and the implementation of new

for measuring.

technologies. More attention must therefore be paid to bringing various parties together (for

Sensing is also an important topic in logistics and

example businesses, organisations) who will be

sales. Tracking factors including transport time,

able to collaborate on a technology.

temperature, relative humidity and ethylene will Making better use of knowledge from other sectors

enable better predictions about the shelf life and quality of the produce.

There are many issues involved in greenhouse horticulture that are not unique to this sector. It’s important to look into which other places the same


issues are occurring (and might already have been solved). It is important to realise that sometimes just a simple copy-paste is required and the solution can be applied immediately. Often, however, a copy-adapt-paste action will be required, based on the examples found in other sectors. In other words: use the examples as inspiration, adapt them to the needs of the horticultural sector, and then apply them. In order to do so, it is important to have an overview of what is going on in businesses in other sectors, but it is also important to make use of (fundamental) knowledge such as that developed by knowledge institutions outside the horticultural industry. Integration It’s important to realise that new technology and knowledge need to be put to use as part of a total system. By way of illustration: a sensor alone doesn’t have a function; it is given a function when the data that it measures is used in other technologies and applications. Together they form a digital greenhouse. The figure below explains the components that make up a digital greenhouse.


PROCESS (software)



Climate control Models (AI)




Digitization of knowledge grower

Retraining and further training

Digitize crop characteristics




Picking robot




Cultivation systems (greenhouse, VF)


5.3 Digital transformation

and where tasks are clearly broken down into

The third level of digitalisation is digital

categories. No longer will projects or greenhouses

transformation. While level 2 is about actions that

be sold, but instead (for example) a guaranteed

are going to take place in the next five to eight

quantity of x quality tomatoes per week.

years, digital transformation mainly involves issues with a longer time horizon. This involves

As a completely different example, there’s the

a fundamental change to business models, chain

development of digital marketplaces. In the last

processes and business processes, as well as to

century, trading co-operatives were created via the

and the skills and employees required for the

establishment of large logistical infrastructures

application and acceptance of technological

focused on auctions as a price-setting mechanism.


Now, completely new sales structures are emerging based on digitalisation technology in which access

Digital transformation might be called the next

to data is what makes the difference. Direct sales to

Industrial Revolution, which is why the term

end users, new price-setting mechanisms from the

‘Horticulture 4.0’ is also used (comparable to

financial world, other forms of collaboration not

Industry 4.0). The number 4 here refers to the

only amongst growers, but also with farmers from

fourth Industrial Revolution. In the first Industrial

other sectors, the entry of major logistics service

Revolution (in the 18th century), steam engines

providers from outside the horticultural industry,

enabled mass production. In the second (in the

data platforms, non-traditional investors, etc. It’s

19th century), the production process was broken

not yet clear where all of this will lead, but it is

down into separate pieces, partly thanks to the

certain that a lot will change.

use of conveyor belts. In the third Industrial Revolution (the 1970s), production was automated

5.3.1 Actions required

thanks to computers. In the fourth Industrial

It is important that the sector prepares for level

Revolution, production processes will become

3, precisely because what it is going to look like

smart, in part because different processes and

is still unclear. Being prepared for the future is

locations are connected to each other (see

therefore the main message of this document. By

also Smart). In addition, mass customisation,

exploring the possibilities together, we can help

i.e. flexible deployment of mass production, is

to speed up their application. And it is important

possible, enabling products to be produced in small

that not only the businesses in the chain work

quantities at low cost.

together on this, but knowledge institutions and the regional authorities too. The expectation is that

While in level 2, digitalisation is used in the existing

digital transformation will have consequences for

environment (i.e. with the current greenhouses,

all stakeholders, and will offer opportunities for

crops and people), in level 3 the surroundings are

revamping the services and ways of working and

likely to be completely changed or to have already

collaborating. These preparations will include the

changed. This might mean, for example, completely

following points of special interest:

new cultivation systems with new varieties to go We don’t yet know exactly what that will look Making data accessible, and standardising

like, but there are already some very promising

The use of data to develop new products,

developments. One example is Growing as a

services and processes lies at the heart of digital

Service, where parties make mutual agreements on

transformation. As mentioned previously, the

aspects of the cultivation and harvesting process,

amount of available data is enormous. The process

with them, and work done by drones and robots.


of datafication is underway. The amount of data is

the future with regard to the technical, cultivation

only increasing. However, this data is still scattered

and operational aspects of growing businesses

across various providers, each of which uses its

and the businesses in the supply chain, so it is

own method. This is understandable, but it does

important to be aware that being prepared for

form a hindrance to a good breakthrough to level

the future means being able to be flexible. Part of

3. Because for the next step – the step towards

this flexibility is to ensure that business processes

Horticulture 4.0 – it is important for data to

and IT solutions are organised into separate,

available and usable in sufficient quantities. This

interchangeable components.

calls for relevant data (for example on crops) to be standardised. Under ‘accessibility’ there is also

In software development there is often talk of

the need for a good and reliable infrastructure,

microservices. Microservices involve software being

enabling data to be transported quickly and safely.

developed in smaller blocks. (Data) infrastructure in order

This might be something like an observation of

As more and more data are collected and real-

a tomato’s colour or a measurement of a plant’s

time information is used, it is important that the

head thickness. Hardware development can also

infrastructure is in order. Edge computing and 5G

involve working with small components that can be

play an important role here.

used like a box of building blocks. It is a feature of a ‘block’ that it possesses unambiguous functionality,

Edge computing involves the information being

and can be scaled and tested independently.

processed at the ‘edge’ of the network. Instead of

If future cultivation systems and varieties are

sending the data to a central server for processing,

different to what they are now, then the blocks of

the processing takes place close to or ‘inside’ the

hardware and software can be put together in a

sensor that is making the observations.

different way without the need to redevelop the

The advantages of edge computing are time savings

entire product from scratch.

and less use of bandwidth in the network. The speed is also important. The shorter the ‘path’, the Security by Design

quicker the response can be. In a system with real-

When working following Security by Design,

time applications – like determining whether a

security is taken into account right from the

tomato is ready for harvest or not, or an application

beginning of the design process for a product or

for sorting individual seeds – the milliseconds

service. In the data field, for example, this might

that are (not) required for data transmission and

mean thinking about the need to store things:

processing via the Cloud can make a big difference.

which data is really needed and which isn’t? The

This also includes data in the chain.

entire data life cycle needs to be considered too: the storage, ownership, modification and deletion of

The availability of 5G will be the big boost to the


use of edge computing. The 5G-netwerk will enable one million devices to be connected per square

Alongside the technical aspects, human and

kilometre, as well as enabling the rapid exchange of

organisational aspects play a role too. There is

large amounts of data.

thought given in advance to how a working method fits into an organisation, and the way in which Developing microservices and independent components.

people work with products and services.

We do not know exactly what is going to change in


By considering things in advance rather than not trying to make the products ‘secure’ until afterwards, cost savings can be made and there is better consideration of security in terms of risks to the end user. It is also important that the end users, not just the product developers, continue to give thought to security throughout the product’s entire life cycle. After all, circumstances can change at any time. Many products in the horticultural sector were originally made for stand-alone use. There are currently an increasing number of products and services being connected to each other and to the internet. The security implications need to be reconsidered right at the moment that this happens. Incidentally, it’s important to realise that security isn’t just abut the risks posed by, for example, hackers – even ‘just’ the damage caused to a fibreoptic network during roadworks can have major consequences. Awareness and training It would be a good thing if the horticultural sector made an effort to increase awareness and promote the development of knowledge and skills. Not only business owners but also other horticultural industry stakeholders should be assisted with preparing for the digital transformation. There are a lot of options available for this, from IT training and courses to campaigns, as well as attracting new talent, developing new positions and images of the professions. Digitalisation has considerable consequences, especially at level 3, both for the business owners in the chain and for the staff. There is still a need for further exploration and deepening of the consequences. It is logical to connect to Greenport West-Hollands’s Human Capital Agenda and the partners involved with regard to this.



Conclusion In this digitalisation vision, the authors have

major impact on the future of the horticultural

endeavoured to explain what the horticulture

industry. One prerequisite is that the first level of

chain looks like and what the main challenges

digitalisation (the digitisation of data) is in order;

are. There is also a description of the current state

this is certainly the case in the horticultural sector.

of digitalisation in the horticultural sector, the developments that can be expected relating to

Level 3 of digitalisation will have an even bigger

digitalisation, and which actions should or could

impact on the future of the sector. This level is

be taken by the sector itself. This vision has been

known as digital transformation or Horticulture

drawn up based on many written and spoken

4.0. It will mean a fundamental change to business

sources, both within and outside the horticultural

models, chain processes and business processes,


and the employees through the application and acceptance of technological innovations.

With this vision, the initiators – Greenport WestHolland, InnovationQuarter, and Topsector

Technology can change entire sectors; in recent

Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen – want to ensure

decades this has been made clear in many other

that the horticultural cluster makes proper

sectors, for example music distribution or booking

preparations for a future in which digitalisation will

hotel rooms. New businesses have emerged,

play a leading role.

while existing ones were forced to adapt or have disappeared.

A lot of developments in the digitalisation field happen autonomously, meaning that technological

This is not yet the case in the horticultural sector,

applications are developed and applied within the

but there are already visible signs of the sector’s

market or sector, without the need to draw up a

transformation. For example, people are already

collective vision. There are plenty of examples of

talking about the concept of ‘Growing as a Service’,

this. For example, ‘distance selling’ was introduced

in which links in the chain are connected to each

for ornamental plant cultivation decades ago, and

other via a ‘subscription’ (rather than just as buyer/

there are many businesses with logistics systems

seller). And big tech companies, particularly in

that bring vegetables or flowers to the processing

America, are increasingly looking at fresh food

area completely automatically. Digitalisation is


thus already well underway. The authors of this vision realise that it is difficult But for the development and/or breakthrough of

to predict exactly what the digital transformation

a lot of other technologies, a concerted effort is

will look like, but what is possible is to prepare

required. ‘Unmanned growing’ is one example. One

the sector for this new reality. These preparations

of the things it requires is that the growers’ green

are partly technological and partly in the field of

knowledge is digitalised. Only then can a good


decision support system be developed. The need for such systems is growing too, not only in the

To start with ‘humanware’: it is absolutely essential

Netherlands but further afield. Green knowledge is

that the horticultural industry works to raise

becoming increasingly scarce.

awareness of digitalisation amongst business owners and employees. The third level demands a

The automation of business processes – such as

lot from people; they might need to brush up on

cultivation or internal transport – is an example

their knowledge, look for a new position, leave their

of level 2 digitalisation. This level will have a

business or start a new one. All of these choices


begin with the awareness that the world is going to

It goes without saying that digital security is


paramount in all developments, but we will need to take major steps in this area too.

Perhaps the biggest change will be not the technology, but a completely new structure for the

This vision therefore makes no suggestions that

sector. The current structure emerged gradually

picking robots or algorithms should be developed.

several decades ago, with a close-knit network of

Such products are also created without hefty

businesspeople (both production companies and

documents. What this vision does propose is that

suppliers) who worked together to organise things

responsible, committed partners in the region

such as information and advice, sales and research.

take business owners by the hand so that they

If, for example, tech giants from outside the sector,

can together embark on a journey into the future.

such as Amazon and Tencen, decide to enter it,

We need to work together to turn the points

or if, for example, the concept of ‘Growing as a

mentioned here into reality. The follow-up is a

service’ is ultimately realised, this will have major

first step here. It will be carried out in various

consequences for the entire sector. And these are

ways, including the theme of digitalisation within

only examples that are conceivable today.

Greenport West-Holland’s Innovation Pact II, in collaboration with the partners.

Further digitalisation is therefore going to have a much broader impact than on individual companies

That future will be beautiful and digital, and the

alone. At some point the existing agreements and

Dutch horticultural sector can ensure that it is

structures are going to have to be abandoned. But

fresh, healthy and beautiful too.

how? What will take their place? Who will organise that? Who will take which risk? These questions need to be asked, and the first step towards that is awareness. Business owners need to be included in the question: what role do I want to take in this new reality? And what skills will I need for it? But knowledge institutions, financiers and governments also have an important role to play in this development. Not only a facilitating role, but also in terms of setting up infrastructure and regulations. As mentioned above, the preparation is partly technological. Because regardless of what the future of digitalisation looks like, it is important to set standards for data storage, so that business owners and research institutions can use this data to develop new technological concepts. It is challenging to determine the knowledge themes for which the greenhouse horticulture cluster itself will be required to invest in research, and where use will be made of developments from other sectors.


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Annex Overview of technologies

environment, separate from the existing one. This

Some of the technologies falling under the term

is mainly used in design processes, simulations,

‘Smart Horticulture’ are given below. They are listed

games, and training sessions. Combining

in alphabetical order. More information on each

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality results in

technology can be found in the Annex.

Mixed Reality.

• Artificial Intelligence

Big data

• Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Big data is a collective term for large quantities of

• Big data

data. It involves a combination of different data

• Blockchain

sources with structured or unstructured data.

• Connectivity

The term ‘big data’ is often used incorrectly. There

• Decision Support

are various definitions, but one that is commonly

• Digital Twins

used comes from research company Gartner. The

• Drones

first part of their definition states that big data

• Internet of Things

is when we’re dealing with ‘high-volume, high-

• Quantum computing

velocity and/or high-variety information’. In other

• Robots

words, a combination of volume, speed and variety.

• Sensors

Volume involves a great deal of data. Speed is not

• Sequencing Technology

only about ‘real-time information’; it might also

• Vision Technology

refer to data that doesn’t come in at a steady pace,

• 3D printing

but comes in at different speeds and at different times. Variety involves many different types of

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

data, such as input that consists of a combination

Artificial Intelligence (AI) aims to develop functions

of ‘typed’ text, images and sounds.

of intelligence outside the human brain. Machine Learning (ML) is concerned with the development


of algorithms and techniques for the application of

Blockchain is a method of securely recording and

Artificial Intelligence (AI). ML uses large amounts

sharing data with stakeholders. With blockchain,

of data to train the machine to perform tasks. Deep

identical copies of data collections are distributed

Learning (DL) is an ML method based on complex

over the internet. Each addition or change is

neural networks; the algorithm (whether controlled

immediately registered in each copy as a new

or independent) determines a relationship between

transaction in a kind of digital ledger. This ensures

the input and output of data. In the horticultural

the transparency – and thus the reliability – of

industry, this is applied in various ways including

the data. Examples of blockchain include digital

developing models for autonomous growing.

currencies (such as Bitcoin) and chain information

It forms an important building block in the

systems (for example for recording the cultivation,

development of things such as harvesting robots.

processing, transport and trade of agricultural products).

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Augmented Reality (AR) is the technique of


adding information and images to reality. It can

Connectivity means that fast broadband

be used to, for example, help employees recognise

connections are needed for reliable, efficient and

particular situations, for example in a greenhouse.

robust data exchange. Issues affecting connectivity

Virtual Reality (VR) involves the creation of a new

include the development of 5G, and the need for


technical solutions and tools in a network to be

independently, and soil moisture sensors that

standardised and integrated.

wirelessly monitor the soil’s moisture content.

Decision Support

Quantum computing

Decision Support helps users to model, simulate

Quantum computers are intelligent and powerful

and interpret data, and to use the data and the

computers that process information in a new

context in decision-making. Decision Support

way. A quantum computer can make a billion

occurs at different levels: operational (e.g. machine

calculations in the time it takes a classical

control, harvest inspection support), tactical

computer to make just one. This enables major

(e.g. scheduling and reporting) and strategic (e.g.

and important breakthroughs to be forced.

investment decisions).

Quantum computers will mainly be used in places where there is the need to make large numbers

Digital Twins

of calculations. Cybersecurity is often used as an

A Digital Twin can be a digital representation of

example. In the horticultural sector, breeding might

a physical object, but also of a complete process

well be an initial area of application. Enormous

or organism (such as organs, plants, animals, or

numbers of calculations are required in order to

even people). A Digital Twin can be used in areas

predict specific outcomes of crossbreeding, and to

such as process design, real-time monitoring and

speed up things like breeding for disease resistance.

real-time forecasting (for example of times when maintenance will be required). Examples of Digital


Twins include digital plants (for testing a picking

Robots are applications that are intelligent to a

robot) or a digital tunnel freezer (to build and test

greater or lesser degree. They operate according to

the optimal design before it is physically built).

a paradigm: sense-think-act. Robots are reliable, fast, good at performing repetitive work, and able


to withstand difficult conditions. There are already

Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are,

many robots used in the horticultural sector, for

as the name says, unmanned aerial vehicles. They

example in packaging lines. In the short term,

are flown by remote control, or follow a specific,

robots will not only replace people but will primarily

pre-programmed route. Drones are often used for

support them with their tasks.

remote sensing, and also used for transport and crop care tasks. In addition to drones for the air,


there are also drones for conducting unmanned

Sensors are small applications for collecting

observations in the water.

data, for example on the condition of a product, a process, or the surroundings. Examples of sensors

Internet of Things

include temperature loggers, cameras, NIR sensors,

The Internet of Things means that more and more

lab-on-a-chip (a number of laboratory functions

sensors, devices and tools are now connected

collected on a single chip), and biochemical sensors.

directly to the Internet. They exchange data with

Common applications are quality assurance,

other connected devices and with other users. This

information on origins, optimisation, and

allows processes to be computerised and steered

transparency. Wireless sensors and smart sensors

in real time (with or without human intervention).

(that measure/store data and are able to steer

Examples of the Internet of Things include smart

processes) are on the rise.

refrigerators that keep track of their own contents and are able to order from the supermarket


Sequencing Technology Sequencing Technology refers to determining the DNA or RNA of a sample. Software can be used to analyse which organisms are present in a sample and what function they perform. This quickly provides information on food security and food safety.

Vision Technology Vision Technology is the technology with which a computer interprets visual information (e.g. photographs or real-time images). Artificial Intelligence and Big Data are often used as well.

3D-printing 3D printing (or Additive Manufacturing) is a production technique that builds up a product layer by layer based on a digital design. It can be done using plastics and metals, for example, but also food. In that case there is a decoupling of the production of the raw materials and the production of the final food product. In addition, 3D printing enables the production of personalised food based on, for example, genotype, phenotype, behaviour and preferences.


COLOFON Digitalisering glastuinbouw Auteurs: Colinda de Beer, Mario van Vliet, Peter van der Sar, Woody Maijers Fotografie: InnovationQuarter, Greenport West-Holland, Plantsome, Tomatoworld, Gearbox, PATS, Blue Radix Vormgeving: Walvis & Mosmans June 2021


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