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Unravelling malfunctions? Ruud likes nothing better

With the arrival of more luxurious and complex greenhouses, the complexity of malfunctions has increased. So, there is plenty of work for Ruud van de Munckhof, who has been working for himself for a year now with his company Nature Technics. He sells climate computers and supports growers with 'smaller' greenhouses in case of malfunctions that are not always picked up directly by the larger companies. Troubleshooting is the specialty of the man who has worked in the horticultural installation world for years. As Ruud puts it, "That's where the devil is these days, with all that technology."

What gets stuck in horticulture
When his last employer, Codema, went bankrupt, the entrepreneur asked himself the question: What is the sticking point in horticulture? What is there a need for? Small companies are often at the back of the queue with big companies when it comes to solutions to breakdowns. Greenhouses are becoming more luxurious and complex, and so are breakdowns. "Selling can be done by any company, but solving complex breakdowns is another matter."

And it is on the latter that Ruud has focused. Growers and large companies can approach him. "Companies don't always make the choice to invest in training or staff for breakdowns that occur very rarely. As a company, you then cannot solve such breakdowns with scales, for example." Ruud started investing in such things with his company, and he found that his work is picked up by companies anyway.

Linked canvases and more challenges
During the energy crisis, many additional canvases were mounted in the greenhouse. Linking those screen cloths was then an excellent job for Ruud. Communication failures are also becoming more topical, according to Ruud. As are ghost failures, which are becoming more frequent. With his equipment and knowledge, Ruud can point in a direction where the solution can be sought. Sometimes the solution is so complex or specific that Ruud has to involve other companies, such as a fiberglass installer. Not connecting cloths properly electrically can also cause failures in the long run.

"The bigger the problem, the better I like it," he says.

Installers do not always have the knowledge or resources to solve complex failures. "I then say, I'll do it, and I can do it," he says. Sometimes, the technician spends two weeks at a site in the process. Customers also regularly call him asking: help me. Ruud rarely goes abroad for long periods of a time, but the technician does not shy away from a three-hour drive from his home location in Griendtsveen.

Old systems and cannabis farms
The technician often replaces old systems that are no longer supported by new ones. The owner of Nature Technics also has seed breeders and cannabis nurseries as customers, and it strikes him that there can be an incredible amount of technology in these not always very large greenhouses. In doing so, Ruud makes it clear what the journey is that customers have to go through. "I give them a piece of advice, and sometimes it comes out that customers are satisfied with a Hotraco product. But other times, it comes out that they actually need Hoogendoorn or Sercom equipment."

Ghost failures
It is noticeable that growers regularly experience ghost breakdowns. These are failures in which the cause is not clear. Occasionally, it turns out during a breakdown like this that there is a whole laundry list of what is wrong. "There is then not one thing causing the damage, but one overlaps the other. The result is that a certain part of the climate computer, or a function of it, is not functioning properly. Customers then come to me and ask: come to my greenhouse and see what ghost malfunction there is. When I got there, I saw that customers got new cloths, wireless frequency-controlled fans, wireless lighting, and LED lighting. That creates a lot of noise. I then go point by point."

It's nice that you can control it all with these new systems, but they are also all disruptive factors in a greenhouse, experiences Ruud. "One question then is: How well grounded is the greenhouse? In 2011, such a question was not relevant at all. Now it is, with all those wireless systems that resonate within the greenhouse structure. Communication systems and measuring equipment pick up those signals. I am experiencing that more and more often."

Ruud van de Munckhof: "I make detailed digital work orders with photos."

Ruud's ambition is to grow in sales of Hotraco products for smaller greenhouses. He also wants to start offering remote assistance so that a local mechanic can solve the problem with remote assistance. He wants to start using a roadmap for this. He can't do that alone, and he hopes to train someone internally for that in due course. "I also want to start supervising more commissioning operations," he says.

Pipes and hoses under cultivation gutters
Recurring breakdowns can cost a lot of money. Ruud tells of a grower who had installed tubes and hoses as aeration under the cultivation gutters. That didn't work, and there were only breakdowns. "Three mechanics had already been there to solve the problem. I looked into the greenhouse, and in just a few minutes, I saw possibilities to fix the problem. This autumn, I may go and help the customer directly. Otherwise, the growers would have cleared the costly system because he was fed up with failures."

For more information:
Ruud van de Munckhof
Nature Technics
Tel.: +316 8115 4746
[email protected]

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