Jelte van Kammen often starts an interview with a message. We ask the director of Harvest House if this is also the case today. We suggest starting with that. Van Kammen laughs, but starts. It is a warning, but also an invitation. First the warning. Breeders should think carefully about their role in the chain over a period of five to ten years and how they remain relevant. “In this respect, we see that China and the United States are investing much faster in data and technology than we are in the Netherlands. It is also due to the investors. ”
The invitation is addressed to Dutch growers to work together on cultivation automation. Harvest House entered into a commercial partnership with Source.ag, a young crop automation company by, among others, Rien Kamman. He is an expert in artificial intelligence. This year, if possible, this software will be used on 800 acres.
Van Kammen wants more. Dutch parties can achieve most things along with data and retain these benefits in their own circle. He can show the evidence. At tomato growers Agro Care, cost savings and crop optimization are already visible, but also a better harvest forecast. With more data, disease control will also be possible in the long run.
Did this step come from your breeders or from above?
“Two years ago, our breeder Arco Vreugdenhil came to visit me. He had talked to two men and had a very good sense of it. He asked ‘do you want to talk to them?’ I then felt that it is men who can make a difference because they start with production and look at how to stay relevant in the chain. ”
Is it immediately embraced by most breeders?
“A number of growers first said, ‘this is far from my bed.’ Agro Care and Kwekerij De Wieringermeer would like to get started. Then it was just an idea. We then discussed it with a larger group of growers during an inspiration session at Sparta Stadium. It was also interesting that we could become a minority shareholder and participate fully in the product. ”
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What percentage do you own?
“We are a minority shareholder. You really have to finance those kinds of start-ups with technology investors. ”
How many greenhouses do you currently operate?
“We have only just started. At Agro Care, 80% of tomato cultivation is now involved. Kwekerij De Wieringermeer has just started growing peppers. We will now roll it out at a high pace with more entrepreneurs. The goal this year is that we will grow to 800 hectares. ”
Rolling out sounds easy, does it?
Source.ag ensures that software is implemented and the climate computer is unlocked, and entrepreneurs receive training. It is basically the rollout that is taking place. Software builders still constantly monitor crop managers. They turn it into software solutions. The next phase is that we let go of artificial intelligence and the breeder is supported in his craft. The control span of the cultivation leader is so much greater. ”
It is innovative, but not yet very sensor-driven.
“We are not there yet. I expect everyone will find solutions in artificial intelligence and offer this from some kind of app store. Others will also come up with solutions, sensors will certainly be added. You will then add all data points . “
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You can also say. Harvest House is only now taking steps in AI?
“We also led ourselves. We’ve already had a party to give a presentation a few times. So the spark didn’t jump, it wasn’t the right message at the right time.”
What kind of effects are you already seeing?
“We already see on a weekly basis with this system that the supply forecast is many times more reliable than our manufacturers can. There is more insight and it is possible to control costs better. At Agro Care, I hear really enthusiastic voices, for example about energy. It is better to control the energy by measuring heat and creating data points. CO. have also been studied2 and the cost thereof. With that support, the returns of the cultivation companies can be improved. ”
Does this also help with internationalization? Remote cultivation?
“You now see that a manager can cover much more than 10 hectares, and as a chef you can control much more. It makes internationalization easier. As a chef, you do not have to fly back and forth all the time, but you can see the data. You may want to keep your cultivation leaders abroad. ”
What are the less low-hanging fruits?
“An example is the issue of internal advice in peppers. If the quality of data is good and growers want to share data, then do we know the cause and effect of this disease? Our dream is also to collect a lot of demand data and that include artificial intelligence and link it to Source ag. Then you will manage even better. ”
Is faster switching to another crop a big advantage? maneuverability?
“I now see that as a by-catch. However, I do not rule out that we will cooperate more with seed companies. Maybe you can associate it with cultivation recipes. We’ve been on the go for a year and a half now. First, we make sure we have a base. Then we can unleash artificial intelligence on the data and take more and more steps and seek collaboration, for example more with technology companies. ”
What does this mean for existing crop management systems such as Letsgrow?
“Other software like Letsgrow is still being used, but I do not rule out the possibility of doing more and more through Source.ag.”
Data sharing is sensitive. How did you solve it?
“You can see that everyone is thinking about their role in that chain. New parties will also create a revenue model with data. Of course, everyone’s right, but how do we get involved and equally involved? Everyone wants Dutch breeders’ expertise, but that should not drain Dutch breeders. We have acted against that. In the Fruit Vegetable Association, we have signed the Glass 4.0 protocol. It determines who owns the data and what you do with that data. “
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Is it legal with Source.ag?
“It is important that we have entered into a legal agreement on what they do with data. Our data should never be shared. Of course, they build software, but even members must give permission to share information with each other. ”
But some of the information is general. How do you prevent them from using the knowledge you have gained elsewhere?
“Some of the data is actually plant physiological. They take the software package to the competitors. It’s also part of entrepreneurship. That’s why you have to be at the forefront.”
Are your co-sales companies working on this?
“I can see that everyone is working with data, but I can not see any steps. I expect others to join Source.ag. It is certainly an invitation, I hope Dutch producers realize that this is an important step. It does not matter if you take solution A, B or C. ”
Or are you paving the way for others in the Netherlands?
“We do not like the collaboration, where one runs fast and others watch. Either you do it together or you do not. Entrepreneurs need to be on the edge of their seats. It starts small and it keeps each other sharp. If you do this with entrepreneurs in one club, it’s a little easier to talk to. “