What do you do when you're a crop advisor unexpectedly stuck at home for a long period of time? You come up with a way of continuing to advise growers from a distance, of course. That is precisely what Wim van Wingerden did, over three years ago now.

In the years that followed, other advisers also came to ask to be able to work with this. In the spring of 2021 Loek van Leeuwen joined the team and subsequently, the IT company Ignition Computing also joined the project. As of 1 January, the ProJoules portal is ready for use.

ProJoules is the model-based crop planning platform for fruit vegetables. The basis, as the name suggests, is light. Or rather, joules, the total sum of light in the greenhouse at plant level. The platform is available in three languages: Dutch, German and English. Several growers and crop consultants were involved in the development. All this resulted in a platform that, according to the developers, is easy to use and gives a clear picture of the cultivation plans and realizations, both in numbers and in graphics.

The ProJoules team, from left to right: Maarten Sebregts, Mike Sanders, Daan van Vugt, Loek van Leeuwen and Wim van Wingerden.

Light sources
The basis for use is the input of various data. Wim: "Important is the natural light that we receive. This differs per region. Part of the year you have too much, another part too little, depending on the location of the company. You also enter the corresponding figures into our platform. Based on that, you plan your cultivation. Within ProJoules it is also possible to enter several artificial light sources, so that the grower can also work out his crop plan optimally with HPS, LED and/or interlighting."

The demand for multiple light sources came from the market during the development process last year. "Due to the high energy prices, growers want to be able to switch their lighting and also see what it does to the crop. Every little number, every value that you change in the plan, has a direct effect on the future of your crop. ProJoules also gives you a visual representation of that with one blink of the eye."

Dashboard for a tomato cultivation. To enlarge the graphic, click here

This example crop shows how a plan was made for growing tomatoes using extra lighting in the winter period. "It's all about how many joules reach the plant. In modern greenhouses, for example, this means that 75-80% of the natural light from outside reaches the plant. In older greenhouses, that percentage is at least 5 to 10 % lower. You have to take this into account in your plans! It also means that in the summer period we can calculate what the surplus light is and to what extent a coating can support the crop."

Decision support
Anyone who thinks that ProJoules is for autonomous cultivation is wrong. Unlike other systems on the market, ProJoules focuses on decision support and not on a system that determines climate and other cultivation factors for the grower. "It is therefore important for those who work with ProJoules to register properly, with the plant, climate, light and CO2 as the basis. And if you want to, you can register much more in ProJoules. Think of various plant and climate registrations. This can also be done with photos, to create a logbook." Meanwhile, the role of the educator remains important. "And not only in the use of ProJoules, but also in all other facets of cultivation. It is precisely by registering that we believe the grower will be made to think. And that is exactly what the platform aims to do. When using ProJoules, the user gains new insights into the cultivation of their crops. In addition, ProJoules guarantees, in black and white, that all the information that is placed on the portal is and remains the property of the grower."

Striking conclusions
In the recent period, the ProJoules team has already seen examples of growers coming to striking conclusions about their current crop or a past crop. That too is possible, calculating the results of a crop. This is precisely why ProJoules invites growers to participate in a free demo version of ProJoules. Even if the cultivation has already started, the grower or cultivation advisor can see what the crop will do later in the season, based on the data entered.

One of the first growers on the portal has been having problems for some years now in keeping the fruit weight at the desired level in the summer. He thought he had found the solution by reducing the number of tomatoes per truss during the summer. However, after finding out about ProJoules, it turned out that there was too much light and temperature in the greenhouse, which meant that the plants were constantly under stress. This grower saw the surplus of light in the greenhouse in ProJoules and was able to choose the right coating with the help of the programme, thus getting his plant more balanced. "Here he sees that less light can sometimes also give more production!"

Plan for a bell pepper cultivation. To enlarge the graphic, click here

Besides the ProJoules team, the first users are very enthusiastic about the portal. "With ProJoules, the plant is directly in sight and you can use the available light as efficiently as possible. The clear visualizations also make the harvest forecast even more accurate. If you forget to register, you are alerted by text message. Working with ProJoules also facilitates the transfer of knowledge from experienced growers to younger growers. The latter do not have decades of cultivation experience in their heads, but with this system they can see what adjustment of certain cultivation factors will do to the crop and the plant balance. This is a very topical subject, because many growers are currently forced to grow in modified schedules with which they have little or no experience. A good plan and insight into the cultivation with ProJoules is then of great value."

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