"Simply put, we are the global experts in data-driven growing," said Martin van Tol, sales manager at Let's Grow and speaker at the Foodlog Digital Food webinar on Let's Grow. Let's Grow is a software company that specializes in data-driven growing: growing plants based on large amounts of data. The goal: a vital and healthy crop with optimal growth and harvest.

The amount of light and water the plant needs, which variety does best; what a plant needs to grow, can be captured in data. Plant Empowerment, is how we refer to the approach that molds the plant to our needs.

Listen to nature
With that thought, the company Let's Grow, originally a spinoff of Wageningen University, was launched in 2001. The phrase "Collect data, Listen to nature" is the company's guiding principle. Learn and capture life in a process, then you can start working very precisely to help horticulturists improve their performance sustainably. The question that Let's Grow constantly asks itself is, "How do we make the world even better than it already is?"

Meanwhile, Let's Grow has been globally successful for more than 20 years in over 45 countries. More than 2,000 growers use the platform. "Embracing nature" and "putting the plant first," these are the key words with which Let's Grow aims to improve both profitability and sustainability for customers and partners. "A grower needs a strategy," says Van Tol. "Then it becomes possible not to grow based on feelings, but to rely on figures, facts and data."

The plan of action
"We collect, visualize and analyze data with the end goal of optimization," says Van Tol. Data by itself doesn't say much. Let's Grow adds value that creates information based on which action is possible.

Important questions in the Let's Grow process are: what happened in that greenhouse? Why did it happen? What is going to happen? What is the best thing that can happen? "You need data to answer such simple questions," Van Tol said. Let's Grow's data-driven solutions let growers know exactly what's happening and how to respond.

Data by itself doesn't say much. What we do is add value to create information
Collecting data and adding value
Data collection involves bringing together as much data as possible from climate computers, sensors, machinery, labor registration systems and energy systems. Let's Grow does this in their system MyLetsGrow. Next, Let's Grow adds value to this through calculations, analysis methods and the application of growth and plant models. That way it can determine how much light, water and nutrients are needed, or which variety fits best.

The key is to find the correlations between the various elements. Let's grow helps growers make intelligent use of their own data. "Data by itself doesn't say much. What we do is add value to create information."

Let's Grow can visualize the data so customers can see at a glance the status of all operational processes. "And that can be done from anywhere in the world, all you need is the Internet." The big advantage for the grower is that all data is collected in one platform.

In analyzing the data, Let's Grow uses AI. Van Tol says "For us, AI is a great tool that helps us create the information we need as humans to make decisions. AI can also make growers' lives simpler." People with practical knowledge are becoming increasingly scarce. According to Let's Grow, in the coming years we will build more greenhouses than we can train growers. Due to this, there will be an increasing need for knowledge. The solution? We put that knowledge into systems.

After all, why should I make the same mistakes over and over again that my neighbor has already made?
Plant empowerment
Plant empowerment is key. Van Tol explains what that means. Plant physiology is central. Plant Empowerment means working data-based to achieve higher production of better quality. At the same time, Plant Empowerment helps to reduce the use of water, energy and nutrients by addressing limiting factors in the growth process based on data management and data-based decision making. The principles are always the same because they are based on the universal physiology of the plant. The solutions are always contextual and fit a greenhouse, a particular situation, and specific varieties.

Precision of the methods
How precise are the methods of Let's Grow? Can a grower say, I want to grow 200 kilograms of tomatoes and can that be realized?

Animals and plants can be grown in the exact same way: fully controlled
No, Let's Grow cannot do that (yet), because every greenhouse is unique, explains van Tol. However, Let's Grow can already predict - more accurately than before - what the harvest will be. A grower sets a goal of, say, a percentage extra harvest and from there Let's Grow works to determine what is needed for improvement.

Applications in other controlled environments
According to van Tol, the method could easily be used in other controlled environments where a lot of data is already available. "We could do nice things with companies in microfermentation, for example, or in the chicken sector,". In fact, there is a lot of overlap, he explains. A sensor from the Aranet brand, for example, measures temperature, CO2 and humidity, and that can provide valuable data in both a broilers farm and a greenhouse. Animals and plants can be grown in the exact same way: fully controlled.

Sharing knowledge
In the discussion, Xu Zhang, one of the webinar participants, says that the Dutch can share their knowledge of horticulture with other parts of the world. After all, even a few percent more harvest is already very valuable. No matter where.

During the discussion, the conversation turns to sharing data. Even though many growers still resist sharing, they can help each other enormously by sharing data. Dutch horticulture has a long history of data sharing. Van Tol states, "The great thing is that one of the reasons we started 20 years ago was to share data between Dutch growers. After all, why should I make the same mistakes over and over again that my neighbor has already made?”