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'This is a system for the future'

Priva TopCrop: plant-based concept for process control

Priva TopCrop is a plant-based concept for process control. The distinctive and innovative aspect of this system is the fact that the plant has been actively included in the process. For growers and advisors, this provides a new 'control' when influencing growing activity, susceptibility to illness and water retention.

With Priva TopCrop, the grower is able to focus more on improving their business return, as stated in the explanation of the concept introduced in 2011. Since then, TopCrop has been tested in practice by a handful of tomato and rose growers. In this growing season, TopCrop will be part of the project "Samenwerken aan Vaardigheden" at the GreenQ Improvement Centre and the system will be implemented in a section that will be compared with sections where other horticultural innovations are being tested in practice.

In control

Piet Hein van Baar and Peter Klapwijk from GreenQ are following the comparative tomato tests closely. "Priva TopCrop has been decisive in the test", said Van Baar.

"You notice that you have to get used to it. Although the grower still sits behind the controls, the role of the computer is greater than the current generation of growers is used to. The plant sometimes reacts differently to what we expect based on our own knowledge and expertise; it's neither good nor bad, it's really interesting. I am convinced that Priva TopCrop is where the future lies. It is - after all - better to use measurements at plant level, rather than space level. The number of plants on which measurements are based does not need to be representative though."

Klapwijk is in agreement that measuring plant activity will be extremely useful in the future. "Taking accurate measurements at plant level appears to work, which is very modern." Klapwijk knows from many years' experience that innovations often take time. "In general, it takes a few years to convince growers of a new growing technique, and also for them to be able to work with it. It's also a big step from setting up a computer to allowing the computer to control the situation. A grower has to delegate more tasks to the system, and that takes time. You must carefully decide to what degree Priva TopCrop is allowed to be in control."

Akin to running a marathon

According to the GreenQ spokespeople, 2013 has been a very educational year with regard to Priva TopCrop. "You have to stop looking at the kilograms so much", warns Klapwijk. "We started a little bit later because there were areas to improve in the programme, but nevertheless, I am convinced that the results at the end of the season will fulfil our expectations."


Van Baar would like to see Priva TopCrop in action alongside a traditional crop. "Then it would be easier for everyone concerned to compare the results. What is more, a 1,000 m2 greenhouse is a large area for a test project, but rather small in comparison with a horticultural company. For me, however, it is about the interpretation of the information obtained. In any case, it is certain that there are other methods of growing which are different to what we have been used to in recent years. It is best not to keep looking at the current situation, because then nothing will change in the long run!"

According to Van Baar, TopCrop is making it possible to grow consistently. "It's akin to running a marathon. You do it at a constant speed and keep fluctuations to a minimum as much as possible. That is also the optimum situation for a plant."
A social development

Klapwijk and Van Baar feel the added value of Priva TopCrop will mainly be of interest to a new generation of growers and to market gardeners in new growing areas. "Fewer and fewer people are mastering the subject of horticulture, even in the Netherlands", said Klapwijk. "The new generation take advantage of technical innovations more quickly and this is in line with the social development of a better balance between work and free time. A management system such as Priva TopCrop provides more peace of mind and confidence. As a result of this, the concept will be more quickly embraced than previous innovations."

Van Baar is also looking to countries further afield. "GreenQ advise and guide growers across the entire world, even in countries such as Kazakhstan. By using Priva TopCrop, we will be able to obtain actual, real-time growing information. This is also an enormous step forward in the area of providing advice remotely."

The impementation of Priva Top Crop at GreenQ is part of the joint initiative 'Samenwerken aan Vaardigheden' (Building Skills Together) funded by the Dutch Horticultural Board and the Ministry of Economical Affairs.

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