Why big data increases in popularity in horticulture

by | 17-06-2021 | Smart Farming

Big data has already proven its value in many industries in recent years. Today, big data is making huge strides in the horticultural sector. More and more growers and other stakeholders are using data to:

  • assess risks more complete and faster in the greenhouse or field;
  • improve crop management;
  • get a better grip on the supply chain.

In this article we explain these topics in more detail and take a closer look at the factors that become much more manageable for growers thanks to big data.

Improve risk assessments with smart sensors

One way data analytics is helping the horticultural industry is by providing insights that make growers more aware of risks. For example, diseases can spread quickly in a greenhouse or in an open field. In many cases, the diseases quickly spread from a few infected plants to dozens of other plants before the growers have identified the problem.

Monitor climate factors for optimal growth

Fortunately, there are various IoT devices to map environmental factors. For example, the temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide content (CO2), oxygen content (O2), amount of photosynthetic light (PAR), soil moisture, soil temperature and soil conductivity can be measured and monitored in many places within the greenhouse. The grower is able to set thresholds. Does an environmental factor exceed the threshold? Then the grower can receive a notification about this on his mobile, tablet or computer.
“Diseases frequently spread to dozens of other plants before growers identify the problem.”

Identify growth abnormalities in the plant

In addition to climate data, sensors can also collect data on growth abnormalities. Since those variations can be the first sign of a serious disease, this information helps growers be proactive in identifying potential plant health problems. A specific plant can subsequently be treated or removed quickly, so that other plants are not unnecessarily infected with the disease.

The rise of data centers in horticulture

Sensors typically receive continuous data and can be used in greenhouses or open fields with thousands of plants. This explains why data centers play an important role in supporting horticultural professionals: they help enormously in collecting and storing relevant information.

Big data in horticulture improves crop management

During cultivation, the grower faces major challenges:

  • climate and nature are continuously subject to change;
  • you are dealing with diseases and pests that are difficult to control;
  • does your soil have all the necessary nutrients?

These are examples that all have an effect on the growth and quality of the crop.

Crop loss despite having green thumbs

Crop management has come a long way. Horticultural professionals typically rely on experience and suggestions from fellow growers in the area to understand which crops grow best during certain times of the year. Despite the proficient green thumbs of the growers, many operations in horticulture are performed on the basis of routine and assumptions. Even the most experienced growers sometimes struggle with growing seasons, which can result in costly crop loss.

More efficient plant breeding

To prevent crop loss, it is important that the breeds you grow perform optimally under unforeseen circumstances. In order to find ‘the most optimal’ breed, thousands of varieties of a plant are often grown using conventional breeding technologies. Using today’s analysis software, relations can be found in huge amounts of data. Processes such as plant breeding can be performed more efficiently and with fewer errors. This allows plant science and other technologies to advance faster than expected, benefiting today’s growers.

“With big data, processes such as plant breeding can be performed more efficiently and with fewer errors.”

Big data improves supply chain management in horticulture

Not only the improved breed of the plant and the cultivation techniques applied have an influence on the quality of the cultivation. Your cucumber, tomato or pepper can be very tasty after harvest, but if your harvest arrives very late on the supermarket shelves, it will taste significantly different. The agricultural supply chains pose a number of challenges for growers and distributors.

Perishable food products

Unlike most goods, food products are perishable. Incorrect food storage or transport can have a major impact on the quality and taste of the food products. In the worst case, spoiled food products can even lead to health risks.

Identify inefficiencies

Big data also plays an increasingly important role in the way in which these products are distributed from the fields or the greenhouses of the growers to markets all over the world. Distributors can identify inefficiencies in their supply chains to get horticultural products to their destinations faster and cheaper. Retailers use sales and inventory data, as well as information they’ve collected about customer behavior, to minimize waste and excess inventory while staying one step ahead of market demands.


Do you want to lead the way and gain insight into your processes with the help of data? Or do you want to discuss the possibilities and benefits for your field or greenhouse? Please do not hesitate to contact us. We are happy to meet you without obligation.