Growing by Plant Empowerment is paving the way for further automation in the greenhouse sector by combining data analysis with today’s technology. A two-year trial to compare the results of Growing by Plant Empowerment (GPE) principles against traditional commercial methods at United Farms in Mexico has resulted in significantly less use of resources and a 15% profit increase. This confirms that GPE is a roadmap to sustainable and profitable horticulture.
In a recent two-year trial in Querétaro, Mexico, a multidisciplinary team of five GPE Implementation Partners clearly demonstrated the benefits of Data-Driven Growing (DDG) in supporting further greenhouse automation. The project ran at United Farms, an operating company producing tomatoes and cucumbers in 65.5 hectares of high-tech greenhouses approximately 200 km northwest of Mexico City. The aim of the trial was to compare GPE against the traditional, commercial way of growing in terms of production and resource use efficiency (RUE). Two greenhouse compartments were set up based on identical conditions. In the commercial compartment, experienced growers made adjustments based on their intuition and experience. The GPE compartment was managed by young and relatively inexperienced growers who received intensive training and guidance on the GPE and DDG approach from the GPE Implementation Partners, both in Mexico and in the Netherlands.
Easy access and remote monitoring of data
A variety of sensors and cameras were installed in the half-a-hectare GPE compartment at United Farms to constantly measure key parameters such as air temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, radiation, EC and root temperature. The data was gathered centrally by the climate control system and visualized on a customized dashboard, giving the growers easy access to the information and helping them make the appropriate decisions. The data could also be continuously accessed and monitored remotely by the experts from the GPE Implementation Partners so that they could advise the growers if necessary.
The team of GPE Implementation Partner companies on a visit to United Farms in Mexico
Predictable, consistent and repeatable results
The results speak for themselves: 14% more efficient irrigation, 31% reduction in fertilizers, 52% savings on integrated pest management (IPM) applications, 13.8% less gas consumption for heating and a 13.63 % increase in production, leading to a 15% profit increase. The GPE Implementation Partners successfully achieved their aim of demonstrating that DDG can support a more consistent, repeatable way of crop production, which reduces the risk for investors and customers alike.
Paving the way for further greenhouse automation
“Thanks to their ‘green fingers’ based on their knowledge, training and experience with the crops, growers can be very successful, but their decisions still include a degree of subjectivity. Data holds the key to being truly objective,” comments René Beerkens, a consultant at Hoogendoorn Growth Management – a GPE Implementation Partner company. “By combining data analysis with today’s technology, growers are not only able to improve the quality and yield of their existing crops, and therefore maximize their profit, but can also manage a larger production area with less effort. Moreover, GPE principles can be learned relatively quickly, which is particularly beneficial in regions where experienced growers are hard to find. This can help to meet the urgent and ever-growing demand for high-quality and sustainable fresh food, right around the world,” he concludes.
GPE Implementation Partners
In addition to Hoogendoorn Growth Management, the other four GPE Implementation Partners involved in this trial were: Saint-Gobain Cultilene, Koppert Biological Systems, Ludvig Svensson and LetsGrow.com.
Do you want to know more about the results? Check: https://www.plantempowerment.com/knowledge-base/15-profit-increase-for-mexican-grower/