Horticulture 2.0 has the future
On 19 November, Grodan, supplier of innovative substrate solutions for greenhouse horticulture, organised a broadly-based symposium entitled ‘Modern solutions for modern challenges’. During this symposium, about high-tech horticulture prospects for the next five years, the contours of Horticulture 2.0 were outlined. This is a concept which is based on two pillars: precision growing and route-2-market.
Vincent Deenen, Grodan Marketing Director, kicked off the symposium by formulating three challenges facing high-tech horticulture. This was done from a global, consumer and sector-based perspective, respectively: doing more with less per square metre and in a better way, anticipating changing consumer needs and continuing to operate profitably. To meet these challenges, high-tech horticulture must strive to bring market expectations into line with the reality of today. Only then will Horticulture 2.0 really be able to get off the ground.
Excel or be exclusive
In their presentations, four other speakers expanded on Deenen’s statements. Linda Rutten, Senior Consultant Business Openers, gave feedback on the results of the previously held expert sessions. She considered giving a further interpretation to the principle of ‘doing more with less... in a better way’ as high-tech horticulture’s most important mission. By developing controlled, transparent and environment-friendly methods for growing tasty, healthy and varied produce and communicating this clearly, the sector can meet consumer wishes and requirements. In this precision growing concept, sustainability and profitability go hand in hand. Dick Oosthoek, Director Horticulture and Arable Farming Rabobank, remarked that growers and retailers are already meeting consumer needs for convenience, health and fun foods to a great extent. However, to be able to profit optimally they will have to work even more professionally, establish partnerships, strengthen ties with the consumer and differentiate more. In this respect they face a choice: excel, be the best, or innovate, be exclusive.
Industrialise or innovate
Peter Oei, Program Director SIGN (Dutch Foundation for Horticulture Innovation), showed a number of striking examples of visionary projects in the fields of climate control, water management, logistics, energy efficiency, heat storage and greenhouse design, all of which take the social context into account. The majority of these innovations related to the first challenge mentioned by Deenen: doing more with less per square metre in a better way. Finally, based on cases from other sectors, Martijn Laar, Managing Consultant Berenschot Consultancy zoomed in on a number of ‘modern solutions for changing realities’. In his view, high-tech horticulture is faced with the task of finding structural solutions to structural problems, particularly because of the increasing pressure on production factors and market conditions. However, he did warn the sector not to fall into the commodity trap and compete on price. In fact, he only saw two ways to secure the future and turn Horticulture 2.0 into a success: industrialise (the chain) or innovate (the business). It is a matter of ‘eat or be eaten’.
High-tech and high-touch
In conclusion, there appear to be two pillars on which high-tech horticulture can build to rise to the formulated challenges in a fruitful way: precision growing and route-2-market. Precision growing, ‘razor-edge’ horticulture, implies that the grower knows precisely how to steer his production process to achieve an optimal end product. By combining minimal input with maximal output, without wasting resources, he not only promotes environmental well-being, but also increases his profitability. To ensure the message gets across properly, however, it is important for him to link ‘high-tech’ to ‘high-touch’, that is, intensify the contact with the consumer. Route-2-market means that each link in the chain must choose between excelling in efficiency, by streamlining operational management processes and forming alliances with other players, or by creating distinctive added value with their products. Both options require coordination and marketing (communication). If that is implemented effectively, high-tech horticulture, in the form of Horticulture 2.0, has a healthy future ahead.