Using data in the greenhouse is an important topic these days. As Meiny Prins, CEO with Priva, shared today, the company has decided to expand their hardware business and help growers use this data in their greenhouse. “The program is doing something that a person cannot,” says Mike Flux with APS Group, who has worked with one of the products this year.
Priva Horticultural Innovation Lab
When taking a look in the mirror, the team at Priva realized they wanted to be closer to the customers and help growers faster. Their newly launched brand Phil (short for Priva Horticultural Innovation Labs) was created to quickly test and market digital services for growers. Today Phil offers three digital services that help growers get better insight into their crop and better results from it as well. In the coming year this will expand to ten services.
What’s remarkable about the Priva solutions is that they do not focus on only remote companies, located in places where the availability of a head grower can be an issue. “Imagine you are a head grower. Normally you check your settings every day and adjust them every day. Now you’re sitting on your hands, not touching anything. That’s literally what a head grower trusted us to do,” explains Alastair Monk. With an extensive background on the use of data and algorithms in horticulture, he joined Priva this year and he’s taking care of Phil. “Of course, this grower will still be in the greenhouse, but the climate control wasn’t in his hands anymore.”
Alastair Monk joined Phil last year
The Phil Plantonomy product he’s talking about is one of the three products being launched today. It provides remote, autonomous control for high-tech greenhouses. Then there is the Phil Intelligence Dashboard, providing a wide appeal for any kind of Priva customer, allowing the grower to slice and dice into any data point he wants to look at and create custom data features based on this information. “There’s so much data that can be offered as valuable information to growers, but isn’t accessible yet. We’re offering this information in an easy to read and use dashboard.” As a third, there’s Phil Crop Cycle Manager for the medicinal crops market that helps these growers put all the information in one place: labor data, recipes, light controls. “It will not only show you how you are doing today, but it will also help you with your future recipes and controls.” Fool proofing growing? “Well, we want to flatten out the curves,” he laughs. “In the end it’s about providing a predictable result. In order to do so, you need to have complete control over the process before hand – and to have that, you need to know what’s going on.”
He continues: “As boring as it sounds, a flat line in producing crops is a goal to reach in horticulture for that reason. When there are no surprises and you have nothing going on, it means there’s nothing disturbing your cultivation and you’re steadily winning the race. A head grower knows this and knows what he’s doing, but there’s only so much he can do. With better data insights we want to give him additional tools to manage the crop, making it possible to control a larger acreage or to improve cultivation.”
A peak in the Phil office
That’s exactly what Priva has been doing in the last years. Following the development of the products, this year they tested the Phil Plantonomy product with the APS Group in Canterbury. Mike Flux is an experienced grower and APS Group is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of British tomatoes - yet the data driven service helped him improve his crop. “The program is doing something I can’t,” he explains. “It’s a more scientific approach to growing. My interpretation of what the plant wants and needs might be different from somebody else’s. You can take that decision away, because the computer is doing more of that for you.”
The scientific approach of growing is something Priva has invested in for many years. Alastair explains how Peter Kamp played an important role in this and how the Priva TopCrop Monitor uncovered a lot of information on the needs of the plant. “By building on all this information we were shown the ingredients needed for a richer recipe, which we’ve been able to realize.”
At APS, the model created an active environment for most types of weather conditions. “The plant wakes up to an active environment in the morning and it will be kept that way during the day and evening. On dark days there’s more bottom heat and on a bright day the humidity is maintained, using the vent position. It maintains the maximum water intake during the day. This also helps control the temperature of the glasshouse by using the plant rather than opening or closing vents.”
“As a grower you’re not in competition with the program,” he continues. “It has taken growing to another level, but you still need the grower. You’re more in control and you need to make fewer decisions. There’s less pressure on the grower because the program is doing a lot of work for you. It’s hard to wrap your head around not having to worry about the temperatures. It’s going against what I’ve been doing for the past 30 years. It’s amazing how the plants have responded with the extreme temperatures of the past year. They’ve stayed more active during the hot period.”
He explains how it was easy to work with the additional data provided by the system. “It has worked very well in this hot summer. It has a positive relationship with the climate and irrigation control manager. Because it worked so well, I’ve tried to mimic it on the crops where we didn’t install it, but it’s just not achievable. The program is doing something that a person cannot.”
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