Thomas: 'Innovative cultivation methods? Bredefleur dives into the data!'
'Innovative cultivation methods? Bredefleur dives into the data!'
To understand how much more a plant needs to grow into a perfect lily, Bredefleur has been fanatically collecting data in our greenhouses for the past few years. For example, we have a weather station with measuring sensors that register the climate, a PAR meter to measure the light and at our location in Luttelgeest we measure by hand the length, bud size and number of leaves of our lilies.
Analyzing cultivation data with Let's Grow
Nothing new under the sun, you might think. Only, for over a year now, we have been linking the various data together. So the data from the weather station, light and measurement data from the lilies are compared. In the analysis, we work with Let's Grow, a company that once developed a system to compare data from vegetables. And now there is an analysis adapted to the cultivation of our flowers. On a so-called dashboard you immediately see an overview on which you can look back a year's worth of data.
Better predict and respond to situations
By collecting data, we can now look back and that gives a lot more guidance. You could say that cultivation and production 'happened' to us before. You had a period with peaks in the quantity of flowers and weeks with little production. Now we can better predict what is happening and respond accordingly. For example, the summer period is always quite a challenge in cultivation: you have to be constantly alert to everything. If there is a heat wave now, then you know: we will get more flowers. And we can then steer and cultivate as much as possible accordingly.
Anticipating the weather
For example, every week we make a climate report analyzing temperature, light and humidity. We link these to last week's results. Of course, we are always dependent on the weather, which can never be predicted. However, we can anticipate. So if we see that the light is less, it could be due to rainy weather, or by using too much screen cloth, or perhaps the lighting in the greenhouse needs to be adjusted.
Less on gut feeling
Measuring is knowing. The big advantage: you have much more insight, are more specialized and can manage a team better. I can now say to my cultivation employee: hey, make sure you reach this limit this week. By comparing data, you make cultivation measurable and you work less on your gut feeling. Although you will always need that feeling. And I like it when my gut feeling is confirmed!
'The lilies grow short, turn off the light'
By the way, sometimes this is not the case. For a long time I was convinced that more light in the greenhouse makes a lily shorter. I can still hear my father saying: 'The lilies get short, turn off the light'. But now I have found out that it is not the amount of light that determines the length, but the temperature. Enormously instructive! By the way, my father has no problem with this. He loves these new insights into cultivation.
Steering for sustainability
Another additional advantage is steering for sustainability. To regulate the climate, we need heat and light in our greenhouses and that costs an enormous amount of energy. By measuring, you know what the right temperature and light frequency should be and you can be more sustainable with energy, gas and heat. And also with fertilization. What has a plant already built up and what nutrients does it still need?
Actually, you can compare the cultivation of a lily to a very large box with a huge number of elements and they all have to be right. Oh well, I could go on talking about it for a whole afternoon.
PS: Many growers find that manually measuring plants makes little sense. A lily is more than just length, number of leaves and buds. The lily is a bulbous plant, with a bulb largely determined by a grower. So what does measurement data really say. Still, I rose to the challenge. As long as you collect enough data, you can average it out and discover a line.
Thomas Evers (29), having graduated from Horti Business and Management, is co-owner of Bredefleur.