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Data-driven cultivation accelerates development of variety-specific cultivation formulas

The demand for healthy, attractive, and sustainably produced food such as fresh vegetables is growing worldwide. Growers align the growth factors as closely as possible to the needs of the crop and the cultivation objective they have in mind. As conditions outside and inside the greenhouse vary and plants are living organisms, growers need to be responsive. This is why they regularly adjust the set points of growth factors, so as to optimize the performance of greenhouse crops and make efficient use of energy, water, and nutrients.

BASF believes in the future of autonomous growing in smart greenhouses, as this will help growers make better decisions and get the most out of their crops. “We want to start facilitating this with variety-specific cultivation formulas, which we develop in an autonomous growing environment,” says R&D Services Innovation Lead Martin Voorberg. “Hoogendoorn Growth Management’s IIVO process computer helps us do that.”

Cultivation: a high-intensity sport
“Cultivation is akin to high-intensity sport,” says Martin Voorberg. “The steadily decreasing number of experienced growers, the increasing size of farms, which are sometimes spread across multiple locations only adds to the challenge. It’s becoming more difficult to keep an overview and always make the right decisions at the right time. The technology is now so advanced that it can take a lot of work off the hands of growers. Indeed, autonomous cultivation programs are already able to achieve better results.”

Variety-specific cultivation formulas
BASF’s site in the Dutch Westland region was the first location at which the new IIVO process computer was installed. The process computer helps Voorberg and his team to take the development of variety-specific cultivation formulas to the next level and accelerate it. “Variety-specific cultivation knowledge is an integral part of the product we deliver,” says Martin Voorberg. “We supply genetics and the know-how that goes with it. In order to quickly and fully exploit a variety’s genetic potential, our customer needs to know how to grow the variety. It takes time to get to know all the ins and outs. The IIVO process computer helps us to define the correct set points faster and more accurately. This provides extra added value for the grower. If the grower also has the right tools for autonomous cultivation, he or she is even more likely to make the variety profitable. Eventually, most of our customers will work that way.”

Angela Barendregt, Project Manager for International Business & Strategy at Hoogendoorn, adds: “BASF uses the IIVO as a guide and tool to gain new insights, fine-tune cultivation conditions, and pass on cultivation knowledge to customers. It’s having an impact in so many ways. Martin and his team have already proven the concept, improving the production and quality of hydroponic lettuce whilst at the same time making the cultivation system more sustainable. The more you know, the more you can grow.”

Gradual Broader Rollout
BASF’s breeders and cultivation specialists are currently using the new process computer for lettuce and tomato selection programs. “We now have one and a half years of experience in lettuce, and things are well on track,” says Voorberg. “Cultivation control is different and more challenging for tomatoes due to the crop’s longer cultivation period and its different development phases. The balance between vegetative and generative growth is extremely important. However, we’re making progress, and our customers will definitely start to see the results.”

For more information:
BASF Vegetable Seeds  


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