Labour... will this still exist in the future?

Tomatoes ultra-clima greenhouse
Greenhouse peppers Venlo greenhouse KUBO

Labour... will this still exist in the future?

Everyone is aware that energy and water will be huge themes in international horticulture in the coming years. Suppliers particularly, as major steps have been made in this area in recent years. However, I do notice one prominent theme that people always miss: the increasing shortage of labour capacity. Workforce? If there’s one thing that isn’t in short supply in the world, you’d say that it’s manpower.

It’s a familiar problem in the Netherlands. Our horticulture - one of our country’s biggest employers, largely depends on workers from Eastern Europe. It’s hardly possible to find Dutch people who want to work in horticulture. The younger generation are increasingly opting for higher education. During the KUBO Ultra-Clima convention, it became clear that this labour problem is not just a typically Dutch problem. Our clients from countries including South Korea, Japan and the United States are also facing problems filling vacancies. Although I can imagine people turning down a horticulture job in these countries – I think it’s unjustified.”

 

Horticulture greenhouse with robots

The size of the problem only really dawned on me when a Chinese entrepreneur asked when the entire greenhouse process could be done by robots. Apparently, a job in horticulture is also not the first choice for the generation of Chinese workers currently entering the labour market. So, it will have to be robots then? I know that robotisation is progressing, with robots that can scout for diseases and plagues or do simple crop work. But the idea that a horticulture greenhouse can be run entirely by robots as well as be profitable, that could take quite a few years.

 

Better use of data

There are also options in other areas to make horticulture less dependent on labour. This includes better use of data by horticulture companies. We are already measuring and registering a lot. But in practice we’re not making full use of all the information available about the crop and especially the labour process.

This is because there’s a lack of good, simple information being presented from the gigantic wealth of data generated by a greenhouse. More and more data are being generated by greenhouses, projects are becoming bigger and there are many companies with multiple locations. How do you maintain in control of your greenhouse? How can you compare information and how can we get the correct information from these data to keep the process manageable and under control?

That is why we have developed and launched PYLOT on the Greentech in Amsterdam last June. With this software available for all growers we make the first step in getting real time information about the performance of your greenhouses on one screen. You can even benchmark with other locations or colleagues all over the globe. It is an overall Management Information System and it can extract data from all climate computers and other sources of data. If you want to know more please feel free to check out our website.

With kind regards,

Wouter Kuiper