The digital revolution in potted plant cultivation: An interview with crop consultant Leo van Uffelen

  • January 10, 2024

Photo: Studio Anne

In the ever-evolving world of horticulture, the rise of digital technologies has brought about a revolutionary change in how growers manage their crops. One individual at the forefront of this shift is Leo van Uffelen, an expert advisor in potted plants who has embraced the power of data to achieve better results. Leo shares his journey, starting from a world without data to developing advanced models and dashboards with LetsGrow.com to optimize cultivation.

The transition from intuitive cultivation to data-driven advice

Ten years ago, Leo underwent a radical change in his role, transitioning from an intuitive grower without real data to a pioneer in using technology to provide cultivation advice. His introduction to the world of data came through the WUR, where he was first exposed to information he had never used before.

"Suddenly, I was confronted with all sorts of data that I had never dealt with before because I had always relied on my intuition", recalls Leo. His original approach was purely based on intuition and experience, without the support of measurement data. Leo started as a grower at the age of sixteen, cultivating peppers for fifteen years without the use of advanced measuring instruments such as PAR sensors. Before delving into the realm of data, he also had nine years of experience in growing potted plants.

Suddenly, I was confronted with all sorts of data that I had never dealt with before because I had always relied on my intuition.

Leo van Uffelen, crop consultant

From analyzing to advising: wireless sensors and collaboration with LetsGrow.com

Faced with the challenge of understanding the causes of issues in cultivation businesses, Leo began using wireless sensors. These sensors provided him with new insights into factors influencing plant growth, such as the PAR sum. His transition to collecting external data allowed him to gain more and more insight into the figures and ultimately led to a collaboration with Wim from LetsGrow.com.

Leo explains, "Then we started to determine what is important for the grower, what does he benefit from." In collaboration with LetsGrow.com, he developed dashboards and models to visualize and interpret the data. These tools were designed to provide growers with meaningful information about their cultivation strategy and to highlight specific deviations.

From intuition to numbers: the necessity of data for compelling advice

Leo emphasizes the need to substantiate his intuitive approach of 'it's good or not good' with numbers. Over the years, Leo has accumulated an increasing amount of data. This allowed him not only to present the results to growers but also to identify deviations and suggest necessary adjustments for improvement. "I have to be able to show a group of growers what has been achieved but also what the deviations are. And where that is set in the computer as a setting to improve that. So, I provide data, but I also provide the deviations," explains Leo.

A new role in autonomous cultivation and trust in data

Leo highlights the importance of trusting settings in the long term and the shift towards autonomous cultivation. As the head grower at Van der Voort, he had the opportunity to fine-tune settings, allowing him to educate himself in autonomous cultivation. He states that the right settings enable the grower to intervene less frequently, ultimately benefiting the plant.

"It involves having confidence that those settings are good in the long term and not what you would normally do yourself," notes Leo. Models and dashboards were used to demonstrate why certain settings were chosen, benefiting not only the plant but also providing peace of mind for the grower.

It involves having confidence that those settings are good in the long term and not what you would normally do yourself

Leo van Uffelen, crop consultant

Remote advice: the future of potted plant cultivation

Leo shares his knowledge and experience with potted plant growers, leading him to the use of advanced models and dashboards. The ultimate goal is to make information easily digestible for the grower, allowing them to harness the benefits of data analysis.

Leo shares his vision for the future, hoping for self-learning models that can be automatically configured, reducing the amount of manual work. He also emphasizes the importance of involving growers in the use of data and bridging the gap between theoretical approaches and practical knowledge.

The path to more efficient potted plant cultivation

Leo van Uffelen's journey illustrates the shift in potted plant cultivation from an intuitive approach to a data-driven one. Through collaboration with LetsGrow.com and the use of wireless sensors, he has helped growers achieve better results. The digital revolution in horticulture is clearly evident in Leo's story, and his vision for the future promises further innovations in the horticulture sector.

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