With 15 employees, this small but experienced team at Blue Radix combines interdisciplinary knowledge in crop cultivation with artificial intelligence (AI) technology for complete greenhouse automation.
“The number of greenhouses in the world is steadily increasing, yet the number of experienced crop experts is in sharp decline,” says the company in a release. “Blue Radix is therefore making autonomous greenhouse management based on algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) available to the international greenhouse sector.”
“We offer growers a digital brain for their greenhouse,” says Chief Executive Officer Ronald Hoek who, alongside co-founders Chief Product Officer Rudolf de Vetten and Chief Operations Officer Laurens van der Spek, is part of the Management Board of Blue Radix. “We are a Dutch high-tech company that specializes in the application of artificial intelligence for the greenhouse sector. Greenhouses provide an efficient way of producing vegetables, plants and flowers in a sustainable way. However, the number of people with crop expertise is declining year by year. At the same time, a huge amount of data is becoming available for crop management, and energy management is becoming more important and complex.”
Autonomous growing with Crop Controller
The company’s algorithm-based ‘Crop Controller’ steers greenhouse installations autonomously. This enables growers to optimize their greenhouse climate, reduce water and energy consumption, and limit operational risks and their ecological footprint. They fully automate and achieve their planned crop strategy and benefit from financial optimization in all areas
Many companies offer data-driven growing and data platforms that provide growers with insights. Although offering dashboards, warnings and digital recommendations, these platforms still require growers to evaluate the data and perform the right actions themselves. Blue Radix says they are taking the next big step in this regard.
Crop Controller truly understands the grower’s crop strategy and carries out the required actions completely autonomously. This means that growers can increase their range of control and reduce the company’s dependence on the availability of the ‘human’ grower’s expertise for its success. The autonomous control also helps the continuity of their company in the event of business succession.
The data models control the systems in the greenhouse 24/7 and growers are supported by offsite operators with in-depth knowledge of crops, energy and data. They provide a personal contact for customers and guarantee that the algorithms produce the right results. A grower does not need to purchase or install new hardware. “Our cloud-based solution instantly turns a regular greenhouse into a high-tech and data-driven one,” says Hoek.
“At the moment, Crop Controller is operating in several leading companies with tomato and cucumber crops in the Netherlands, and we are receiving requests from various regions throughout the world, including Russia, China, Canada and the US,” says the company.
Formation of Blue Radix
The idea of creating a new company emerged after the successful participation in the first edition of the Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge, organized by Wageningen University & Research and Tencent. It focused on the question: Can AI autonomously take over climate control and irrigation in a greenhouse from the grower? During the challenge, in competition with Tencent, Microsoft and Intel, Blue Radix demonstrated that artificial intelligence is capable of doing far more than many thought possible. “As a result, the concept increasingly took on a life of its own and we realized that an autonomous greenhouse is a real possibility. So we started working on forming Blue Radix and the development of Crop Controller,” says Hoek.
Management board members Hoek, de Vetten, and van der Spek all hail from AgroEnergy, where they acquired years of experience with the application of AI relating to energy services in the greenhouse horticulture sector.
Because of the growth of Blue Radix, it will move to the Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam. “We established Blue Radix to apply our skills and technology to help the greenhouse sector scale up and improve operational activities in the greenhouse. Our independence is important, because we work closely together with many different companies in the greenhouse sector.”
Catch Ronald Hoek’s talk during the Canadian Greenhouse Conference’s 2020 virtual program: https://www.canadiangreenhouseconference.com/
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