The Gebr. Van Duijn eggplant nursery has been growing high-quality eggplants for many years. The company, founded in 1962, has expanded and innovated considerably over the years. In total, the greenhouses of Gebr. Van Duijn covers an area of over 27.5 hectares. These are distributed over three locations in Westdorpe (12.5 hectares), Steenbergen (8.5 hectares), and Oosterland (6.5 hectares) in the provinces of North Brabant and Zeeland in the Netherlands. At all locations of this grower, eggplants are carefully grown and the plant is central. Gebr. Van Duijn’s eggplants grow on the rootstock of a tomato plant. This rootstock contributes to the constant and efficient growth of the crop. The rootstock of the plant gives the assurance that the root maintains constant growth, ultimately resulting in high-quality eggplants. Gebr. Van Duijn uses the LetsGrow.com platform for different ways of data collection, visualization, and analysis.
Taking data to the next level
We spoke with Luuk van Duijn, Since 2016 he is the head grower of Gebr. Van Duijn at location Steenbergen and since 2019 also at location Westdorpe. Luuk is no stranger to LetsGrow.com. He did an internship at LetsGrow.com during his studies in horticulture and arable farming at the HAS in Den Bosch. Gebr. Van Duijn is affiliated with the Growers United cooperative and is working on Digital Crop Management with the growers of the Purple Pride product group via the LetsGrow.com platform. When Luuk joined the company in 2016, a start was made to expand the use of LetsGrow.com at Gebr. Van Duijn. Luuk adds; “Because there are many locations that all generate data in their own way, it is important to have the same platform that makes all data transparent. Then the data is lifted to a higher level and it is comparable. “First of all, we then started comparing climate data from different locations. Then the first step was taken towards crop registrations and comparing plant and water samples.” Today, LetsGrow.com retrieves data from manual registrations, the climate computer, various sensors, and the grader and takes pictures of the crop. All this data comes together clearly on the dashboards of Gebr. Van Duijn on the MyLetsGrow platform.
Comparing climate data was the first step. Luuk explains: “Comparing the climate data of the different locations were already done at 24-hour level, but actually, this data gave too little useful information. You can put two growers next to each other with a 24-hour period of 22 degrees. But if one grower has a flat heating system and the other uses a dif-strategy of 4 degrees, this ultimately results in a different type of plant. A period of, for example, day or night or a shorter period would therefore be more accurate in this case. With LetsGrow.com five-minute data is even possible”.
The expansion of LetsGrow.com with accurate crop registration
The goal of Gebr. Van Duijn is to visualize even more data via LetsGrow.com. “With LetsGrow.com we are able to support choices in cultivation with factual data. In this way we can ultimately take our operating result to a higher level”. Luuk indicates that the modules with climate, water, and meteo are among his favorites; “This is the module that started it all and is used the most by me and my colleagues. Every day you can make real-time comparisons with colleagues and other locations. This ensures that we have a good insight into the developments in the crop”.
The use of LetsGrow.com by Gebr. Van Duijn has been increasingly expanded in recent years. For example, they have also started with eggplant crop registration. Luuk explains: “Previously, each grower from each location kept their own crop registration. By entering this together via the LetsGrow.com app, fewer and fewer unnecessary mistakes are made in the calculations. There is also a gain in time. There is now a fixed moment when the registrations are done and so you can directly compare the data with other data, such as the climate. It is also easy to give future colleagues insight into the data because the data is well preserved. This secure storage of our data also ensures that we can use that data again in the future.”
A future with Machine Learning
When we ask Luuk about his goal for the coming years, the answer is clear: “Our goal is to link even more data to the LetsGrow.com platform. The possibilities in the field of Machine Learning are in full development. If we can now ensure that our data is transparent and that people learn to work with the data in the right way, this will ensure that we can respond quickly in the future. For example, when developments offer us opportunities.
Gebr. Van Duijn is working hard on this goal and this year, in collaboration with Purple Pride and LetsGrow.com, they even started developing a working harvest prognosis for their eggplants. Luuk explains: “Every year there were a number of moments when the prognosis was wrong. A pity, because it could be more accurate. LetsGrow.com helps us with this. During a bi-weekly meeting, we meet with the growers from various locations and discuss the results of the new harvest prognosis. In this way we find the missing link in, for example, our registrations or data use. By uncovering these errors, we can fine-tune the harvest forecast and use it even more optimally.”
The fine-tuning of the prognosis ensures that expansion is possible. A link has now even been made with their Aweta grading system: “In the eggplants, we work with different weight classes and the intention is that we forecast these weight classes towards our sales. Because when we have a clear picture of what the predicted production per weight class will be, sales can respond to this. This data is therefore essential for us”, says Luuk.
It’s clear that Gebr. Van Duijn, in collaboration with Purple Pride and LetsGrow.com, will continue to innovate in the coming years, but ultimately only a few things are important to this grower, namely growth, attention, and pleasure. This is what brings them success according to Luuk. Of course, we at LetsGrow.com agree with this.