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10.09.2021
Skadi Menne
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The Digi­tal Grower is the Future

TASPO, Ger­many’s lea­ding tra­de jour­nal for com­mer­cial hor­ti­cul­tu­re, con­duc­ted an inter­view with our Mana­ging Direc­tor Moritz Böcking. The focus was on the ques­ti­on of what role digi­tiz­a­ti­on will play in the future of horticulture.

 

TASPO: Klasmann-Deilmann is a lea­ding pro­du­cer of gro­wing media. It’s unex­pec­ted that your com­pa­ny is now making a strong case for digi­tiz­a­ti­on in horticulture.

Moritz Böcking: We remain a sub­stra­te pro­du­cer and are first and fore­mo­st stan­ding up for our cus­to­mers. But the fact is that if you want to stand up for your cus­to­mers today, you also have to deal with the digi­tiz­a­ti­on of your busi­ness pro­ces­ses. Digi­tiz­a­ti­on is effec­tively on the agen­da in all indus­tries world­wi­de, and it is only a mat­ter of a few years befo­re pro­duc­tion, tra­de, logistics and ser­vices are com­pre­hen­si­ve­ly digi­ti­zed world­wi­de. Com­mer­cial hor­ti­cul­tu­re will also fol­low this path. Of cour­se, substrates and plants will remain a pri­ma­ri­ly ana­log busi­ness, but digi­tal solu­ti­ons will incre­a­singly shape our indus­try. We fol­low deve­lo­p­ments in inter­na­tio­nal hor­ti­cul­tu­re and see what is hap­pe­ning ever­y­whe­re. It was a logi­cal decisi­on with us to move for­ward with digi­tal horticulture.

TASPO: What are the­se developments?

Moritz Böcking: The worl­d’s popu­la­ti­on is gro­wing, and with it the demand for healt­hy food and orna­men­tal plants. Howe­ver, sin­ce the land nee­ded for cul­ti­va­ti­on is not incre­a­sing, yiel­ds must be incre­a­sed on exis­ting land. Our gro­wing media make a major con­tri­bu­ti­on to this. In the same con­text, the deman­ds pla­ced on nur­se­ries are also steadi­ly incre­a­sing. They have to incre­a­se their out­put and effi­ci­en­cy. They are beco­m­ing lar­ger, more com­plex and often spread over several sites. We know that the­re is a shor­ta­ge of qua­li­fied tech­ni­cal per­son­nel, which means that more and more respon­si­bi­li­ty is con­cen­tra­ted on very few peop­le. It is fore­see­ab­le that hor­ti­cul­tu­ral busi­nes­ses will have to be mana­ged even more like indus­tri­al com­pa­nies in the future – stron­gly net­wor­ked with their cus­to­mers and their sup­pliers. And that won’t work without digi­tal solu­ti­ons. Digi­tiz­a­ti­on will soon no lon­ger be a com­pe­ti­ti­ve advan­ta­ge, but a fun­da­men­tal pre­re­qui­si­te for their own success.

TASPO: Your ans­wer to this deve­lo­p­ment is the digi­tal plat­form Log & Sol­ve, which Klasmann-Deilmann is deve­lo­ping spe­ci­fi­cal­ly for users in com­mer­cial hor­ti­cul­tu­re. What is this app­li­ca­ti­on all about?

Moritz Böcking: Log & Sol­ve is an online plat­form that cur­r­ent­ly focu­ses on moni­to­ring hor­ti­cul­tu­ral pro­ces­ses. Cul­ti­va­ti­on para­me­ters are recor­ded, obser­ved, eva­lua­ted and sup­ple­men­ted by the user’s own notes and visu­al mate­ri­al. For examp­le, nut­ri­ent con­tent and sub­stra­te mois­tu­re can be con­ti­nuous­ly docu­men­ted and auto­ma­ted sta­tus reports can be gene­ra­ted about the respec­ti­ve crop. The digi­tal cul­tu­re log­books visua­li­ze the mea­su­re­ment data – also in com­bi­na­ti­on with fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on. In this way, they allow a broad over­view of the ongo­ing pro­ces­ses and com­pa­ri­son with pre­vious or par­al­lel plan­ting sets. Upco­m­ing crops can be plan­ned in detail with Log & Sol­ve. Based on the collec­ted data, the nur­s­e­ry can pre­vent unde­s­i­ra­ble deve­lo­p­ments. Any defi­ci­en­ci­es that do occur can be detec­ted at an ear­ly sta­ge and con­se­quen­ces aver­ted. In the event of cri­ti­cal values, warning messages are trig­ge­red by e‑mail or SMS. In this way, the farm keeps an eye on the suc­cess of its own crop manage­ment and can read­just if necessa­ry – regard­less of whe­ther the green­house in ques­ti­on is right next door or far away in ano­t­her coun­try. The data and eva­lua­tions can be shared with the team, for examp­le on smart­pho­nes or tablets. In addi­ti­on, fur­ther con­clu­si­ons can be deri­ved to impro­ve ope­ra­tio­nal pro­ces­ses. In addi­ti­on, we offer con­sul­ting based on all the data, i.e., con­sul­ting on cul­tu­re manage­ment in day-to-day ope­ra­ti­ons. This is what our cus­to­mers know and par­ti­cu­lar­ly appre­cia­te: the per­so­nal exchan­ge on topics that are cur­r­ent­ly on the agen­da in the com­pa­ny. Face-to-face dis­cus­sions will con­ti­nue to take place in the future. But they will be based on much bet­ter data. We will also beco­me more fle­xi­ble. When things are urgent, our experts will also be avail­ab­le online as consultants.”

TASPO: Nevertheless, why of all things does a sub­stra­te manu­fac­tu­rer need to add digi­tal solu­ti­ons to its core business?

Moritz Böcking: We saw the need, we had the ide­as, and we have the right experts. A who­le ran­ge of our IT solu­ti­ons sim­pli­fy the pro­ces­ses bet­ween the nur­s­e­ry and the sub­stra­te manu­fac­tu­rer, they bring addi­tio­nal bene­fits to the par­ties invol­ved. Substrates can be orde­red online with just a few clicks, and deli­very is accom­pa­nied by a tracking tool – tha­t’s alrea­dy part of the stan­dard the­se days. At Log & Sol­ve, hor­ti­cul­tu­ral engi­neers and IT spe­cia­lists work tog­e­ther with hor­ti­cul­tu­ral com­pa­nies on an inter­di­sci­pli­na­ry basis to con­ti­nuous­ly deve­lop the plat­form. In the mean­ti­me, we have reached the point whe­re the use of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence will soon be worthwhile. To ans­wer your ques­ti­on: It does­n’t have to be the sub­stra­te manu­fac­tu­rer who pro­vi­des the digi­tiz­a­ti­on. But we, too, are a com­pa­ny that is in the tran­si­ti­on from the ana­log to the digi­tal age and is working flat out on IT solu­ti­ons. The poten­ti­al for our cus­to­mers is obvious. Tha­t’s why we want to walk this path tog­e­ther and make pro­gress tog­e­ther. The ear­lier and more clo­se­ly we work tog­e­ther, the bet­ter digi­tiz­a­ti­on in hor­ti­cul­tu­re will succeed.

TASPO: Whe­re do you see the digi­tal future of horticulture?

Moritz Böcking: We reck­on that the­re will no lon­ger be enough expe­ri­en­ced gro­wers and skil­led workers in this coun­try and inter­na­tio­nal­ly even in the medi­um term – and tha­t’s a shame. The­re is a thre­at of losing skills that are essen­ti­al for a suc­cess­ful nur­s­e­ry. If the­re is to con­ti­nue to be com­mer­cial hor­ti­cul­tu­re that safe­ly pro­vi­des us with healt­hy food as well as orna­men­tal and nur­s­e­ry plants, then we need to trans­fer hor­ti­cul­tu­ral know-how into bits & bytes. We assu­me that in the not too distant future, hor­ti­cul­tu­ral ope­ra­ti­ons can be con­trol­led digi­tal­ly with a high degree of auto­ma­ti­on – lar­ge­ly inde­pen­dent of the know-how of the respec­ti­ve ope­ra­tor and with very few per­son­nel. The „digi­tal grower” is com­ing, and tha­t’s why we’­re deve­lo­ping Log & Solve.