Autonomous climate and irrigation management can benefit growers and greenhouse companies in multiple ways, according to Ronald Hoek, chief executive officer of Blue Radix

What role does Blue Radix play in the tomato sector?

Ronald Hoek Blue Radix

Ronald Hoek

Ronald Hoek: Blue Radix is a specialist and market leader in autonomous growing. We develop and implement algorithms for daily processes in greenhouses around the world. With AI we support growers to optimise their climate, irrigation and energy management.

Working with Crop Controller, growers can manage more hectares, while improving yield and significantly reduce the usage of resources like energy and fertiliser. We have 35 employees based in Rotterdam and have customers in 15 countries across four continents.

What developments have you seen across the category?

RH: The horticulture industry is growing year by year. At the same time skilled and experienced growers are becoming scarce due to ageing.

The average age of growers in North America and Europe is 59. In Japan it’s 68. This is limiting the growth of the industry.

Greenhouses are complex systems that demand professional high-end management. Working with AI can provide an answer to this challenge, while it also improves the accuracy, yield and predictability of produce.

As Blue Radix we are committed to contributing to the resilience, sustainability and growth of the industry. With Crop Controller we offer an integrated solution for autonomous climate and irrigation management.

This reduces the work for growers behind the climate computer by 80 per cent. This time and mental attention can now be transferred to time in the greenhouse and to labour.

You operate in autonomous greenhouse management. What are your key products?

RH: Crop Controller is the system for autonomous climate and irrigation management. The grower defines the strategy and the goals for the season. The grower is in charge of what has to be realised. With Crop Controller we support the grower in a number of ways.

It structures the crop strategy, so it’s a realistic calculation of yield expectations. Typically every week the grower checks if the strategy is OK, based on crop registration and observations. Crop Controller takes care of the execution, 24/7.

Growers benefit from Crop Controller on multiple levels. It’s a win-win for both the growing team and the greenhouse company.

Growers have a better work-life balance, because they don’t have to pay so much attention to the climate computer settings. These time-consuming tasks are done by AI/Crop Controller. They can manage four times more hectares, and/or spend more time in the greenhouse and work with the labour force.

The company benefits from higher yields (up to 10 per cent) and a reduction in resource usage (fertilisers by up to 10 per cent, energy by up to even 15 per cent), providing improved profit.

Finally, the company benefits from improved yield prediction and securing the valuable, unique crop knowledge of the company, with less dependency on individual growers

This interview is taken from the upcoming Fresh Focus Tomato special, produced ahead of the Global Tomato Congress, which takes place on 14-15 May at the Fokker Terminal, The Hague