“Within the next ten years, we are going to see a completely different greenhouse. It might look the same from the outside, but on the inside you’ll see different sensors, drones and robots and greenhouse operators managing the whole thing using an array of dashboards,” says Lee.
The changes inside the greenhouse are part of a bigger trend, in which the sector is gradually moving from descriptive growing (looking at graphics to determine what happened), to prescriptive growing (computers telling them what to do), to, ultimately, autonomous control. Lee predicts that: “Ten years from now we will see the first fully autonomous greenhouse, operating by itself. It will be managed by Artificial Intelligence (AI), using data and new sensor technologies. With this shift in operations, the role of the grower will evolve.” Lee: “This is not science fiction anymore, but almost a reality that is within touching distance. We only have to look at current innovations in the sector and of course the ongoing autonomous greenhouse challenges at the WUR in Bleiswijk which have captured the imagination of the whole industry.”