While LetsGrow.com primarily focuses on data collection and analyses for growers worldwide, we also sometimes collaborate with companies that do something different than growing crops. A good example of this is HortiTech. An innovative start-up from 2019, created when Peet van Adrichem, after finishing his time as initiator and director at the World Horti Center in The Netherlands, joined forces with his sons Perry and Pim van Adrichem. The initiators of HortiTech had a clear vision: to help the world grow, with knowledge of horticulture gained and perfected in the Netherlands. And they certainly have that knowledge. With work experience and education in Agri Business, they are well suited to train growers worldwide, but they also conduct various surveys for horticultural organizations and provide advice to this target group.
After a successful start in 2019, the focus for HortiTech was mainly on training growers worldwide, with the trainings being held in the Netherlands. More and larger greenhouses were emerging for which correctly trained growers are not always available. By taking new growers under their wing, HortiTech has been able to prepare them for the real deal over a period of three years through a training program it has developed itself. The focus was on training local people in particular, for the reason that they are able to commit themselves to the horticultural organizations in their country for a longer period of time – something that always presented challenges with incoming growers. HortiTech had a flying start. With several projects worldwide on the horizon, 2020 promised to be their year. But then, Covid-19…
Pim van Adrichem explains what this meant for them: “In the beginning we were panicking for a while and thought, what now? Projects abroad were put on hold or cancelled altogether. That, of course, was a bit of a switch”. But the men did not leave it at that. They initiated the search for another way to get their horticultural knowledge to starting growers worldwide. For them, the solution turned out to be online. First by sharing their knowledge personally online, but later the idea arose to set up permanent interactive E-learnings. Pim explains: “Through photos, videos, interactive elements and texts we explain to people how they can cut leaves or harvest tomatoes, for example. The entire Greenhouse Planning process is covered in different levels. For us it is an efficient way to bring knowledge to a place we cannot travel to ourselves, but it is also nice to have the theory online. When we are able to visit organizations physically later on, the theory is already there and we can get straight into practice. In this case the situation with Covid-19 forced us to be creative, but we did come up with a good permanent working method. We expect to have the first E-learnings online this month. We’ve put a lot of time into this, because we wanted to do all the programming ourselves as well. Perry has been very immersed in this recently”.
Where LetsGrow.com comes in
In addition to setting up online training courses for growers worldwide, HortiTech also continued to set up and expand research for various horticultural organizations at the end of 2020. At the World Horti Center and at the old location of Demokwekerij Westland, they have a number of greenhouse compartments at their disposal for, among other things, a trial with white LED lighting for tomatoes and cucumbers. They also make use of the principles of Plant Empowerment. Pim explains how they experience that: “In one greenhouse we grow with LED lighting and on the basis of Plant Empowerment. In the other greenhouse, we grow in the traditional way that our customer has been doing for years. We see very interesting things happening in the greenhouse with LED lighting, but of course you want to know why these things happen. That is also important for us to know, because after research we deliver a report to our customer”. And that is exactly where LetsGrow.com comes in. “In both greenhouses several sensors are placed that measure things like PAR light, temperature, Co2, sap flow, stem diameter and so on. All sensors in our greenhouses are connected to the MyLetsGrow platform of LetsGrow.com. In this way we can make all data flows transparent to our clients. Even if our clients are sometimes initially only interested in temperature or humidity, The HortiTech grower likes to chart everything. Collecting high quality data is important for future analyses. After a while, you can find the link between the crop and the data. That often results in our client also being interested in all the other measurements.”
MyLetsGrow as their logbook
When asked whether LetsGrow.com makes their work easier, Pim answers with a resounding YES: “The crop is always in the condition as the platform tells us. You don’t have to keep checking your crop at location or grow based on instinct. Instinct is a subjective thing. If the grower is not having a good day, he might miss some crucial information. In our view, this is unnecessary. Measuring means certainty”.
The data from the sensors are visualized on the MyLetsGrow platform and used by HortiTech. These visualizations are included in the reports towards their clients. “MyLetsGrow is really our logbook. If we did not use the platform and could not demonstrate anything, our research would immediately be worth a lot less. You can’t show why you gained certain outcomes. Even if the conclusion is sometimes that a method has worked less well, with the platform we can demonstrate why this is the case. LetsGrow.com is therefore an enormously important addition to our research and especially to our reports. We can use it to start a conversation with our clients and base our advice on facts”.
Whereas many studies often lead to even more (follow-up) studies, HortiTech strives for practical results. In addition, HortiTech always tries to actively involve a renowned, external grower in its research. Together with the reports they produce, they can advise their clients on whether or not to make certain decisions in their cultivation strategy. They are, as it were, the connecting link between the long-standing theory and the results from practice. And this is how they hope to continue for the foreseeable future. In five years’ time, the company hopes to expand their research into more and longer studies with, for example, groups of growers. In addition, they want to continue to transfer their knowledge, in the field of cultivation and labor within horticultural organizations, to growers worldwide who can make good use of it. Both online and offline, which is nice that both are moving forward.
To us, HortiTech is a good example of an organization where the optimum use of knowledge and a portion of perseverance are highly valued. LetsGrow.com is of course proud to work with this innovative party.