Centre of Expertise Digital Operations & Finance

Agrotech

We see an increasing convergence of technology and agriculture. The Centre of Expertise Digital Operations & Finance at The Hague University of Applied Sciences plays a role in this by conducting practice-oriented research on the use of robotics, automation, sensors, data science and artificial intelligence in greenhouse horticulture. This effort should have a positive effect on the cultivation and processing of the greenhouse horticulture products. The goal of this research is to make the sector more sustainable. The Agrotech research focuses on South Holland, a region that is home to more than half of all greenhouse horticulture companies in the Netherlands. 

Technological developments enable growers to collect an increasing amount of data about their crops and their business operations. With this data, they can make more targeted decisions about, for example, climate control in the greenhouse, the supply of nutrients and water, lighting and harvesting. This development of the increasing convergence of technology and agriculture is still in its infancy. But developments are moving fast. In the near future, this convergence will significantly change the way crops are grown. The Centre of Expertise Digital Operations and Finance is contributing to this with practice-oriented research.

SCOUT research project

Through the SCOUT project, and other projects, the Centre of Expertise researched how we can use digital technology to make the greenhouse horticulture sector more sustainable. The SCOUT acronym stands for: Sensoric data Catching Of highly Useful Terabytes. The partners in this project developed an integrated monitoring equipment and methodology concept. This enabled a tomato grower to collect information about the crops and the growing environment in his greenhouses. By collecting and analysing reliable information, the grower has more control over his products.

Products and the process

The research group Smart Sensor Systems in our Centre of Expertise developed some of the following for this project:

  • a mobile measuring system;

  • prototypes for contactless head thickness gauges;

  • prototypes to measure the so-called Leaf Area Index.

The research group conducted this research mainly with the assistance of students from physics, mechatronics and electrical engineering enrolled in the minors Embedded Systems and Robotics and Vision Design. The students participated in designing the measuring instruments, and in the implementation and testing of the instruments. The work was conducted both in the laboratory and in the greenhouse. The participating growers have stated that the new tools offer great potential added value.

Collaboration

Within The Hague University of Applied Sciences, the research group Smart Sensor Systems in this SCOUT project is collaborating closely with:

  • the research group Photonics;

  • the research group New Finance;

  • the minor Embedded Systems;

  • the minor Robotics and Vision Design.

The research partners for this SCOUT project outside of THUAS included the following research institutions:

  • HAS University of Applied Sciences Venlo and Den Bosch

  • Fontys Eindhoven

  • NHL Stenden North Netherlands

  • Inholland Rotterdam

  • Wageningen University and Research (WUR)

We worked together with the following industry associations:

  • Prominent

  • LTO Glaskracht

Many business partners also participated in the research:

  • Aris

  • DT Van Noord Tomatoes

  • Innovation Handling

  • Berg Hortimotive

  • Fresh Valley

  • Kwekerij De Poort

  • Bioverbeek

  • Gubbels sweet pepper grower

  • PRIVA

  • Blue Engineering

  • Holland Innovative

  • Twinburg

  • Delphy

  • Indigo Logistics

  • Vereijken Nurseries

Crop growth and climate parameters

Currently, our Centre of Expertise is working on a new Agrotech research project to develop and apply robotic systems, sensors and data analysis. The goal is to obtain reliable automated crop measuring and climate parameters and translate these into concrete decisions for the grower. For example, based on the data, the grower would be able to calculate the optimal harvest moment in relation to market demand. The grower can use the information on the optimal harvest time to manage the cultivation.

Chain development

As a Centre of Expertise, we are developing a chain of growers to work with them on business models, harvest monitoring and plant measurements. This will allow us to strengthen the sustainability and transparency of the greenhouse industry. Our focus here lies on data intelligence in horticulture.

Team

  • Rufus Fraanje
    Rufus Fraanje is the project leader of the Agrotech project and senior lecturer in the Mechatronics degree programme at the Faculty of Technology, Innovation and Society (TIS). He is also a researcher in mechatronics at the research group  Smart Sensor Systems. Email: P.R.Fraanje@hhs.nl.
  • Derek Land
    Derek Land is a lecturer in physics and a researcher in the research group Smart Sensor Systems. Email: D.D.Land@hhs.nl.
  • John Bolte
    John Bolte is the leading professor of the Centre of Expertise Digital Operations & Finance. He is also a professor in Smart Sensor Systems at the TIS faculty. Email: J.F.B.Bolte@hhs.nl.

Professional field

High-tech manufacturing/agrofood

Themes

Autonomous development; transparency - monitoring; digital cooperation

Media

www.growcampus.nl/project-scout-hogescholen-werken-samen-aan-sensortechnologie-tomatenteelt/ 

www.agriholland.nl/agenda/agtekst.html?id=23456 

www.holland-innovative.nl/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/02-Rufus-Fraanje-SCOUT-Precision-farming-in-de-tuinbouw.pdf