Joep van den Bosch
Food for thought Robotics AI

The age of the autonomous greenhouse has begun

Author: Rachel Anderson
Monday, 13 September 2021

Joep van den Bosch, Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) for Ridder, predicts that in ten years’ time, smart technologies will be doing most of the work inside the greenhouse. Therefore, he discusses the key innovations that need to be developed to make this vision of the near future possible – and how Ridder is helping the industry to achieve it.

Paving the way for autonomous growing

Van den Bosch foresees that the autonomous greenhouse will enable growers to focus on higher-level decisions. He explains: “They will become more like managers, overseeing all the processes and systems and taking a helicopter view. Now, they need to take every small decision themselves. But that will no longer be necessary – automated systems will take care of most of that.” However, for this to happen by the next decade, van den Bosch believes that four essential technologies need to be developed.

Data analytics

Data from the greenhouse – such as data on production and climate conditions – needs to be recorded securely and made available. “This is crucial so that we can automate other processes in the greenhouse. Our HortOS data platform, with its options for collecting data and sending feedback directly to the climate computer, has an important role to play in this.” Vision technology“At the moment”, explains van den Bosch, “growers need to be physically present to assess their crops properly and make the right decisions – decisions about climate strategy, for instance. But this could also be done automatically with camera systems to replace the ‘growers’ eyes.’ These will track the growth and progress of the plants.”

Artificial intelligence (AI)

The third technology brings the first two technologies together. “It means analysing the collected data, using it to make decisions and create solutions. The connected systems will communicate with each other using smart algorithms. Using AI, the systems will be able to achieve the best possible climate inside the greenhouse completely independently.”

Greenhouse robotics

Van den Bosch predicts that many of the physical activities in the greenhouse, like picking and packaging, will be automated. “We already have a lot of basic technology for this, but it’s not all widely used in horticulture yet. Companies in the sector will have to work more closely with suppliers and involve growers in this. And significant investments will also be required.”

GreenTech Amsterdam – a launching platform for innovations

Ridder offers growers an integrated package of cutting-edge solutions such as drive systems, climate screens, controllers, water units, and much more. In the future, its services will focus increasingly on “growing as a service.” “That means offering a comprehensive package of products and services to lighten the workload in the greenhouse – providing technology and smart solutions to resolve key issues around limited knowledge and the scarcity of labour,” asserts van den Bosch.

With this vision in mind, Ridder is introducing two innovations at GreenTech Amsterdam (September 28-29-30, 2021).

Ridder SmartDrive is a new generation of smart drive systems for ventilation and screening systems. “By adding intelligence and digital communication to the traditional Ridder drive systems, we can make installations quicker, more user friendly and provide more accurate control of the greenhouse ventilation and screening systems,” says van den Bosch.

Ridder CoRanger (nominated for a GreenTech Innovation Award) features a patented, yet open platform technology that makes it possible to register the positions of employees, harvest carts, robotics, or other objects in the greenhouse to an accuracy of 10cm. The Ridder CoRanger Beacons installed in the greenhouse, together with the portable CoRanger Tags, form a high-quality infrastructure for monitoring activities and achieving precision horticulture.

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