September 11, 2023

PlantBalance: an app with the grower’s needs at its core

The right decision, at the right time, tailored to the current conditions in the glasshouse. That’s what PlantBalance stands for.

But what functionalities are already available? And what’s new? Cor-Jan Holwerda, product manager at PlantBalance, is here to tell you.

Grower feedback is paramountPlantBalance | Cor-Jan Horweda
For Cor-Jan, digitization in the agricultural sector is not unfamiliar territory. He worked at the agri-data platform 30MHz for eight years. Since June 2022, he has been ensuring within the PlantBalance team that the grower’s voice is heard and incorporated into (future) solutions. “If there’s one thing we value at PlantBalance, it’s that we establish and continuously develop an application that seamlessly aligns with the needs and desires of the grower. How can we provide solutions that truly add value for growers? This means that the app is never truly finished for us and must always allow for adjustments and new functionalities. Grower feedback is paramount in this process.”

Better decisions = better results
To provide that flexibility, it was crucial to establish a strong foundation for PlantBalance. “Five years ago, there was already an dashboard app available. It had tremendous potential in terms of delivering data and innovative insights but lacked the connection to the grower’s daily practice. By focusing on this in recent years, we now have a dashboard with various functionalities, all aimed at making the grower’s daily life easier. We continually combine grower data with the grower’s knowledge and experience, as well as that of Bayer and De Ruiter, creating significant added value. This helps the grower make better decisions and achieve better results.”

A basic cultivation plan in 30 seconds
Cor-Jan explains: “First and foremost, the grower can quickly and easily create a cultivation plan. All they need to do is enter basic information about the crop, such as variety, rootstock, location, and planting date. We combine that with data on the glasshouse infrastructure, such as light transmission value and the position of the glasshouse relative to the sun and local weather data and forecasts. We also incorporate our own knowledge about the characteristics of the selected variety. Within 30 seconds, the application generates a variety-specific cultivation plan for the upcoming growing season.”

Step two: tracking with GuardRails
“Now that the basic cultivation plan is created, it’s important to closely monitor progress. With PlantBalance, the grower can track daily growth using clear graphs that display key cultivation variables, such as climate, water management, and crop status. This allows growers to compare crop performance with the basic cultivation plan, quickly identifying any deviations and taking targeted actions”, says Cor-Jan. On this tracking page, growers can also compare their crop performance with that of other growers. This benchmarking makes it clear where potential improvements can be made.

From data to analysis
PlantBalance takes it a step further with the analysis tool. “With this tool, all available glasshouse data are analyzed. Growers can compare variables with each other. For example, they can compare two growing periods or analyze temperature, humidity, and fresh weight increase. Through custom analyses and visualizations, growers receive the insights they need to achieve the best possible results.”

The latest feature: Notifications
The PlantBalance dashboard already offers a lot, but as mentioned, it’s an app in continuous development. A recent addition is Notifications. “With this feature, growers receive immediate alerts when something in the glasshouse deviates. This could be a temperature fluctuation or a water issue. Growers can customize which notifications they want to receive and tailor them to their specific conditions. This is where the grower’s daily practice truly merges with the knowledge and experience of Bayer and De Ruiter. We can send targeted alerts that can prevent crop damage, providing real benefits to growers. We initially tested this feature with one type of notification, and based on grower feedback, we will continue to expand this module. It’s great to see that we receive feedback from growers and requests to add certain other notifications. This is exactly how PlantBalance is meant to be: an application co-developed, based on grower feedback and preferences!”

PlantBalance | Notifications on laptop

Optimizing with the grower in mind
In conclusion, for Cor-Jan, it’s clear: “We have a solid foundation for PlantBalance, and we will continue to optimize and expand it with the grower in mind. The feedback and needs of growers are paramount to us, both in the functionalities we develop and their prioritization. With PlantBalance, we can truly support growers and enable well-informed decisions at critical moments. Stay tuned for more!