"Pushing the limits of Next Generation Growing"
Joost Matijsen grows high wire cucumbers. In itself that is not so unique in the Netherlands anymore. He is a leader when it comes to relying on automation in the greenhouse. With the LetsGrow system he pushes the limits of cultivation. "Thanks to the data we can move forward with Next Generation Growing."
Joost Matijsen grows high wire cucumbers for Green Diamonds on 3 hectares in Etten-Leur. To optimize cultivation he has been working with the modules developed by crop advisor and Next Generation Growing (HNT) trainer Peter Geelen for LetsGrow.com for years. The climate computer sends information to the system. "LetsGrow adds up and clarifies the data. This way connections can be made and more information can be extracted from the greenhouse."
Two years ago Matijsen installed vertical fans and a plastic screen to move forward with HNT. He follows HNT courses that use LetsGrow analyses. Matijsen: "Then we can discuss them at the next meeting. It makes the conversation more reliable and faster."
Isn’t that precisely what makes growers shudder; sharing information with potential competitors? That’s not how he sees it. "If you are willing to share data you can have a good and honest discussion. And when you are an HNT student you’ve already opened up to something new. You’ll be pushing limits to move forward. And then it's nice when others are observing. Together you can go further, that’s the big advantage.”
Besides the HNT course group Matijsen also collaborates within the Green Diamonds cooperative. The growers want to distinguish themselves on quality and assume that the life span of a cucumber begins with the plant. Matijsen: "The longer it hangs on the plant, the shorter the life span. The cucumber is the opposite of a cut-price chicken. The faster a cucumber grows, the tastier and fresher it comes off the plant. You can hang a plant full of cucumbers, but that won’t improve the quality."
This is why growers make plant load predictions in combination with light incidence. "With the right scale you can immediately see how you should steer. Whether extra pruning is needed, or if next year you should get an extra stalk in." LetsGrow data are shared in this regard as well.
If it’s up to Matijsen, automation can go much further in the future: "What we use now is a robust system. Thanks to, for example, Peter Geelen’s modules LetsGrow is already calculating the numbers from the climate computer. What if you start steering on the basis of those numbers? HNT has shown that you have to attune the daily temperature to the amount of light. If you have a lot of light, you use a higher temperature."
"A next step could be to feed information back from LetsGrow to the climate computer." Not being involved with the greenhouse at all – that's something he doesn’t see happening. "But we do see with HNT that most problems happen overnight. You need your sleep so you won’t notice it until morning. And then you can’t do anything about it anymore. To overcome this, you will ultimately have to rely on automation."