How do farmers and horticulturalists view data sharing? What developments are they looking for? How do they view data ownership? Which apps and innovations can farmers make good use of? Director Sener Celik will talk to various farmers and organizations in the Netherlands to gauge the mood.
Peer Schraven is one of the three directors of Compliment BV in Volkel (n.-Br.). Compliment grows 8 different crops. From iceberg lettuce to fennel and from Chinese cabbage to cherries. Everything is grown within a 15-kilometer radius of the company. He discusses data with Rob van de Lindeloof and Ronald Hendriksen of Agrifirm. Rob is responsible for arable farming and horticulture and Ronald is the technical specialist for field vegetables. JoinData director Sener Celik talks to them about data and the future of the field vegetable sector.
The four men met at Compliment’s head office in Volkel. The back of the building is where the products are packed, and at the front are the offices. Peer talks about the ICT system Compliment has developed. “For us, the most important thing now is how many plants we planted and how many we harvested. We plant several times a week so we get continuous sales.”
The planters receive an order on their tablet which states which variety must be planted. They register planting dates and number of plants. “We work a lot with pictures, which makes it almost impossible to enter things incorrectly. At the office we work in the same system and when we drive around we can see where things are with a track and trace code. We don’t harvest until it’s sold. Then an order to harvest comes through the system with the plant code on the field. This way, we know exactly what has been planted and harvested, and therefore the yield.”
“Track & trace down to the hectare level”
The products are partly packed on land and partly packed in Compliment’s new building. A packed head can be traced back, using a plant code, to its position in the field. Sener inquires about the role of data in sales. Peer talks about the delivery according to Planet Proof. “Everything is written down and we work as sustainably as possible.”
“Monitoring of the products”
Sener is curious to know what the men expect to be the biggest change in the coming years. Peer expects the harvest to be done with fewer people. Ronald sees more change in the monitoring of cultivation. “This will allow us to anticipate better and fewer crop protection products will be needed. We have already made great strides as a sector in this respect. Ten years ago, we still had seed coating and more resources. Now you can only apply aphid control four times a year and many crop protection products are no longer allowed.”
Rob adds: “We are moving more and more toward weed control with less chemicals. Research is already being done into this in leeks and Brussels sprouts. They work with natural enemies against lice. For monitoring purposes there are, for example, sticky traps for caterpillars and lice. Combined with monitoring data on weather, humidity and precipitation, you could control specific areas.”
Sener: “And what about the humidity data, rain data and soil data?” Peer would like to try a humidity meter. Ronald: “Humidity sensors are nice, but we don’t have substrate crops here. They are vegetables in the open air, out in the field. A humidity sensor alone is not enough. Or you need to combine it with a sensor for soil temperature and one for light.”
Rob adds: “Today’s meters are not quite complete yet. Technology in the sector is still developing. Harvesting robots, for example, are still in their infancy. However, for broccoli and asparagus, harvesting robots are already being used. Drones could give a harvest forecast, but then there would still be a need for interpretation of those drone photos.”
Compliment uses the DACOM system to register the use of crop protection agents and sprayer registration in the management program. The DACOM system exchanges data with Compliment’s own ICT system. Peer would like to see a link between DACOM, precision farming, spraying, and soil analyses for field-oriented fertilization. Currently, this is all done via separate platforms.
Agrifirm is a co-initiator of JoinData. “My dream is for data to flow and add value for growers,” says Rob. “We want more movement in data, which has benefits for the grower. Task cards are now being used in the sector, but I find that less interesting. For a grower like Peer, data flows should, for example, lead to a uniform head of iceberg lettuce that can be marketed well.”
“Grower remains owner”
The motto of JoinData is: The grower’s data remains the grower’s data. Sener: “With us, data is only shared with an authorization from the grower and a strict purpose limitation. The purpose limitation ensures that parties using your data may only do so for the specific purpose for which you have granted permission. So for example, it can be used to improve your own business, but not for making benchmarks. With JoinData you actually have a dashboard, which puts you in the driving seat and allows you to authorize parties with whom you want to share your data. JoinData’s members are large cooperatives or advocacy groups. As one of the founders, Agrifirm has invested a great deal, but the benefit is for their customers. Currently, 200 data suppliers and 45 customers are connected; think of a management system, for instance. But the growers always remain in control of their data.”
“Coming full circle”
Peer, interested: “What type of data do you import?” Rob explains: “Look at dairy cattle. There you will find the CRV data about pregnancy and insemination. In addition, there is data from the milking robot, data about contents and production from the dairy organization, and data about the ration from Agrifirm. Then you’ve come full circle. We would actually like the same for the vegetable sector. And not for calculating your cost price. Because that can also be done via an Excel. It’s more about the insights you otherwise don’t get as a human being. An alert because a certain number of aphids has been detected on sticky traps, combined with data on air humidity and temperature which can predict the aphid pressure. Or a cabbage fly in Chinese cabbage that you see on the sticky trap.”
Sener adds: “The idea is that you as an entrepreneur can make better and smarter decisions based on the combined and enriched data and always be in charge of your data. Currently, parties spend far too much time arranging access to data because it is scattered across many organizations providing services on behalf of the grower. That time would be better spent developing smart data solutions for growers.”