Working with WIFI and Bluetooth inside the greenhouse is not that easy. Wireless connections are often affected by the greenhouse construction made of glass and steel. In addition, the density of the crop interrupts the signal. A challenge for a sector that increasingly wants to digitize and work data driven. The introduction of 5G should make wireless communication in the greenhouse possible. To test this technology, Tomatoworld recently opened a 5G test facility in the Netherlands.
“With the 5G test facility, Tomatoworld, a test greenhouse for technology, achieves a global first”, says Claudia van Staalduinen. “Tomatoworld is a field lab in the field of data-driven growing, which is why it is the perfect location to connect 5G to existing sensors. This makes us unique in the world. It is the first public place in a greenhouse worldwide where companies can test 5G, there is no other location where this is currently possible.”
5G is an important development for greenhouse horticulture, says Van Staalduinen. “Unlike WIFI and Bluetooth, which do not work well in a greenhouse, 5G makes it possible to communicate wirelessly in the greenhouse in the future. This new technology offers great opportunities for digital applications in greenhouse horticulture because information can be exchanged very quickly. Consider, for example, cameras that monitor the ripeness of the product, sensors that measure the need for nutrients per plant, better energy- and climate control and faster robotics. The main advantage of 5G over 4G is the lightning-fast transfer of large amounts of data.”
The unique thing about the 5G installation is the higher frequency of 3.8 MHz. The 5G frequency that telecom operators currently offer in the Netherlands is 700 GHz. “The higher frequency allows you to send much more data very quickly. This is essential for accurately controlling robots, among other things”, says Van Staalduinen. In Tomatoworld, companies can now test the technology in a practical situation in combination with other products. “We are still in the start-up phase, but our partner SenseNL will be the first to connect their sensors to 5G. This will take place in the new growing season, as we are still in the middle of the crop rotation right now.”
Sustainable and efficient production
The horticultural sector faces major challenges, Van Staalduinen indicates. “Such as a labour shortage, rising prices for energy and raw materials, increasing sustainability requirements and greater international competition. The experiments with 5G focus on sustainable and efficient food production with respect for people and the environment. Rapid technological innovations are crucial for the leading position of Dutch greenhouse horticulture. That is why local and regional parties support the development of 5G applications in greenhouse horticulture.”
According to Van Staalduinen, the Netherlands is at the forefront when it comes to digital innovations and developments. But 5G technology will eventually be applied worldwide. Foreign companies are also welcome to test the technology at Tomatoworld, she says. “Because we are the only ones in the world who can offer this, we assume that there will be international interest. We are a knowledge, education, and innovation centre and receive many delegations from abroad. They will probably also be interested in this development.”
The test location at Tomatoworld is open to anyone who wants to test digital innovations in a practical environment. They receive professional advice from experts about the possibilities of 5G. The tech experts from TU Delft, Do IoT Fieldlab (Delft on Internet of Things), Robohouse, Tomatoworld, TNO and MCS are committed to accelerating innovations for smart systems with sensors, robots, and drones over the next two years. “As Tomatoworld we want to continue to provide information through our education centre. Partners and other companies can continue to test and innovate. In this way we want to contribute to the further development of horticulture in the Netherlands and the rest of the world.”