ICT is evolving rapidly, and the horticulture and fresh produce sectors are also continuously developing. Dirk van Roode of Nederland ICT, the ICT trade association, follows the developments closely. He refers to a study in which horticulture is named as one of the sectors with the most opportunities when it comes to ICT.
"ICT is very broad, and developments can be found across the board in the sector," Dirk says. Digital infrastructure, with sufficiently high-grade broadband internet, wired and mobile, is becoming more and more important for companies. Other developments are cloud computing and the consequences of that for software companies, for instance, and the rise of 3D printing. But Big Data, Internet of Things and social media are also becoming more and more important.
"I think there isn't a single sector that fully makes use of all the opportunities that are there. The fresh produce sector is no exception. There are enormous opportunities." Dirk refers to a study by consulting firm Roland Berger about the Netherlands as a 'digital gateway'. In it, horticulture is named as a sector with many opportunities. "Horticulture is a frontrunner when it comes to opportunities for ICT. Those opportunities aren't fully used."
In order to make optimal use of Big Data, cooperation within the sector is necessary. By combining the data in the sector, the entire sector can benefit from the data. "Eventually, it's good for everyone in the sector, but we do see many companies don't recognize the opportunities yet, they just ask: 'what does it get me in the short term?' That's an understandable question, especially in economically difficult times."
Cooperation on a national level is a first step, but in a globalizing world in particular, cooperation across borders is important. "Standardization is important, especially with large volumes of data. If every country develops its own standard, you can't exchange data." Combining the different standards is a tough job.
Examples from the sector
Although the sector isn't a frontrunner when it comes to ICT applications, several examples can be found in the horticulture and fresh produce trade. For instance, Dirk mentions a chip that can be placed inside a product. A chip in a bell pepper, for example, could indicate the ideal harvest moment. ICT applications are also used to optimize irrigation of crops, and to minimize water use.
"Another example is linking rainfall radar and the system in a greenhouse, so the greenhouse will automatically shut the windows when it gets cloudy, and the windows are opened when the sun is shining. Or a chip in a product to map the logistical chain. Many examples can be given from horticulture."
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