The HortiFootprint Calculator: innovative new tool to measure the environmental footprint of horticulture production, developed by MPS and LetsGrow.com

Horticulture growers worldwide will soon be able to get valuable insights into their environmental footprint thanks to the HortiFootprint Calculator, an innovative new software tool from MPS and LetsGrow.com.   

The tool measures the carbon footprint of horticulture production based on inputs including energy use, fertilizers, and packaging. A scenario analysis function makes it quick and easy to calculate the impact of changes made to these inputs in the future.  

Help growers gain insight into their current footprint

Ton van Dijk, Global Head of Sales and Operations at LetsGrow.com said: “The demand for sustainability and transparency in the horticulture industry is growing. That’s why we developed the HortiFootprint Calculator: to help growers gain valuable insights into their business’s current carbon footprint and how they can take steps to reduce it.” LetsGrow.com is the data platform that provides growers, crop advisers, and suppliers worldwide with real-time insights into their cultivation data, supporting their decisions so they can make the right choices for a lucrative, sustainable crop. 

Raymond Scheepens, Area Manager at MPS said: “What really makes this tool valuable is the ability to simulate different scenarios to see how changes to production methods would change the carbon footprint. You can see how your footprint would go up or down if you switch energy sources, use different fertilizers, change from plastic to compostable packaging, and so on. This provides crucial information to be able to target investment for the greatest impact.” MPS supports horticultural entrepreneurs worldwide in their efforts to operate more sustainably, offering innovative certification standards and on and offline tools. 

The HortiFootprint Calculator is designed to be user-friendly. Data is provided via a simple tool, and a dashboard provides a clear oversight of the results. It is even easier for current LetsGrow.com clients and growers with MPS-ABC certification, as much of the information necessary to calculate the footprint has already been provided.  

Succesful testcases

Growers in the Netherlands have been testing the tool since early 2021. William Fransen, Sales Manager at VDA Plant, said: “We’re using the HortiFootprint Calculator because it’s very important to us to show our customers and consumers what we’re doing and how sustainable we are. That transparency is very important. It’s easy to get insights from the tool, and with the scenario calculator you can look at how a change would impact your carbon footprint – for example, changing the composition of the potting compost.” 

The HortiFootprint Calculator was developed in partnership with MPS and LetsGrow.com, bringing together world-leading expertise in sustainability and data for the horticulture sector.  

The tool was developed based on the HortiFootprint, a method for calculating the environmental footprint of horticultural products. Launched in 2020, the HortiFootprint is a Life Cycle Analysis that includes sixteen impact categories (including carbon footprint,  land use, and resource use), and covers the entire lifecycle of ornamental and vegetable horticultural production, right up to the end product. It was developed by Wageningen University in partnership with MPS and many other companies and organizations working in the sector.  

The software tool currently measures carbon footprint for production companies in the ornamental and fruit and vegetable sectors. In the future, it will be expanded to measure the full environmental impact using all sixteen impact categories.  

Find out more about the HortiFootprint Calculator and how it could benefit your business at www.hortifootprintcalculator.com, or listen to a special broadcast (in Dutch) on Paprika Tasty Radio, Friday 25 March 10 am-12 pm. 

www.hortifootprintcalculator.com  

About MPS

MPS develops and manages sustainability certificates for the international flower and ornamental industry and conducts certification through its sister organisation MPS-ECAS. The MPS-ABC certificate is recognised around the world as the international standard. While based in the Netherlands, MPS is active in 52 countries. In total, more than 3,500 growers participate in MPS-ABC around the world (5,000 production locations). In North America 83 growers are currently participating in MPS-ABC. www.my-mps.com. 

LetsGrow.com enters into collaboration with SenseNL

The year 2021 was a successful year for LetsGrow.com. They celebrated their 20th anniversary and many new modules and features were added to the platform MyLetsGrow. More and more growers worldwide are practicing Data Driven Growing and to make this even easier for them, LetsGrow.com is now joining forces with SenseNL.

SenseNL is the producer of the wireless substrate-independent CARA MET sensor. This sensor provides insight into what is happening in the root zone of a plant. Good information from substrate mat and water is of great value when it comes to watering a greenhouse. By measuring things like water level, EC, and temperature of the substrate mat or block as accurately as possible, the irrigation and fertilization strategy can be optimized. The CARA MET sensors are used to measure at several measurement points in the greenhouse and create a good profile of what is happening in the substrate mat or block. In addition to the resulting insights, the data can also be used in decision support tools. For example, a grower can, in combination with the expected radiation, automatically determine what time the last watering should take place. This ultimately leads to higher quality and quantity of the crop.

A partnership with a vision for the future

The collaboration with SenseNL and the eventual offering of the CARA MET sensor fits the vision for the future of LetsGrow.com. Ton van Dijk, Global Head of Sales & Operations at LetsGrow.com explains: “At LetsGrow.com we work very hard every day with only one goal: Improving the results of our customers. We do this by turning data into valuable information through data collection, visualization, analysis, and ultimately optimization. All to give the grower more insight into what is happening in the greenhouse. SenseNL is a good match for us in this respect, as they are striving for the same values”.

Bonny Heeren of SenseNL, agrees: “Enabling a grower to get everything out of the crop is, just like LetsGrow.com, our goal at SenseNL. We often talk about ‘precision irrigation’ and with the CARA MET sensor and the data analyses from LetsGrow.com, this is quite possible. The accurate data from the sensor ultimately provides reliable information and can subsequently be used in a wide range of applications. From the irrigation strategy to, for example, the harvest prognosis of the crop”.

Improving the result

By offering growers the CARA MET sensor via LetsGrow.com, unlocking it via the MyLetsGrow platform, and then linking it to smart decision support tools, LetsGrow.com can help a grower to further improve the watering and therefore the result of the crop.

Would you like to receive more information about the deployment of the CARA MET sensor on your farm? Leave your details here and we will contact you as soon as possible!

Digital Crop Management provides added value to tomato growers of Growers United

The corona era has caused many processes in business have been given a digital alternative. This is no different for the tomato growers of Growers United. Digital Crop Management with LetsGrow.com in particular has taken off at this grower cooperative. This is partly due to corona, but also to the fact that tomato growers have to comply with strict hygiene rules to prevent possible contamination with ToBRFV. 

Learning from each other’s data

Growers have been meeting in greenhouses for a long time to learn from each other and to strive for an ever-improving crop in terms of quality. At the beginning of 2020, LetsGrow.com launched Digital Crop Management. With high-quality video recordings from the greenhouse, one can take a look into someone else’s greenhouse via MyLetsGrow, share data and provide it with relevant context.

With the help of LetsGrow.com, approximately fifty cultivation specialists from the members of Growers United tomato meet digitally on a weekly or biweekly basis. And this is working out better than expected. Tom Prins, Innovation Manager Tomato at Growers United says: “Digital Crop Management saves time and provides a large amount of valuable information. It’s good for new and in-depth insights into your cultivation strategy. It also fits in well with the strict hygiene rules we apply to prevent ToBRFV contamination.”

Thanks to Digital Crop Management, the crop specialists can take a look at each other’s crops using videos and plant measurements. This way the growers can learn from each other in terms of yields and cultivation conditions. In addition, it is the ideal way to make issues from the various locations transparent and discuss them. Every crop has its challenges in the greenhouse and this way, growers can learn from other growers who produce for Growers United.

This adds up to the fact that Digital Crop Management is not a temporary solution. The benefits are many, but of course, the participants in the groups still miss meeting at the greenhouse from time to time.

LetsGrow.com as a strategic data partner

All data that results from Digital Crop Management is conveniently displayed in the LetsGrow.com platform (MyLetsGrow). LetsGrow.com also guides the growers through the process and helps the participants to gain insight into the data they have collected such as videos, photos, and crop registrations. With this data, comparisons and analyses can be made, giving a better picture of how the varieties are growing and where optimization is possible.

Martin van Tol, Sales Manager of LetsGrow.com, talks about this unique collaboration: “The tomato growers of Growers United are the only group that practice Digital Crop Management on such a large scale. With approximately 50 cultivation locations, they are truly unique in this. LetsGrow.com is their strategic partner in the field of data and crop optimization. Together we look at the steps that can be taken to achieve the highest possible quality of the crop at the lowest possible cost for the grower. We get the discussion going so that together we can take the group to an even higher level by continuing to innovate.

Jacco Besuijen, Product Group Manager Tomato of Growers United explains; “The past year we have given Digital Crop Management a more solid place within the organization. Since Tom Prins started as Innovation Manager for tomato, LetsGrow.com and Growers United are evaluating the situation more frequently than before and there is one point of contact for the members. In this way, there is a continuous review of where improvements can be made and we can respond to this.”

It is expected that in the future, most Growers United Tomato growers will opt for a hybrid form: Digital Crop Management using LetsGrow.com will continue, but it is expected that the results will also be reviewed face-to-face sometimes. A healthy combination of optimizing processes through digitalization, but with a personal touch.

Tom Prins, Innovation Manager for tomato at Growers United and Martin van Tol, Sales Manager at LetsGrow.com

HortiTech

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.

Plan B

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.

LetsGrow.com proud new partner of AVAG in 2021

We are proud to announce that, starting 2021, LetsGrow.com has become an official AVAG member.

Annie van Riet from AVAG says, “Data and digitalization are becoming increasingly important in the Greenhouse Technology . We, as an association, therefore consider it to be imperative to include these as an integral part of our services. By joining LetsGrow.com, which focuses on data driven growing on a global scale, they provide a lot of knowledge and experience in the field of data and digitalization; information that is of great value to the association.”

Ton van Dijk, Global Head of Sales and Operations at LetsGrow.com, is proud of this step and the attention it brings to digitalization in the industry. He states, “LetsGrow.com represents digitalization and data (Data Driven Growing). We are happy to contribute by sharing our years of knowledge on these topics with the sector for the benefit of the Dutch horticultural supply chain”.