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Name & age: Jan Hanemaaijer, 43 years old
Personal life: I live with my girlfriend and our 2 children in the beautiful horticultural village De Lier in the middle of Westland.
Childhood: I grew up in a family with four children. My parents owned a greenhouse, where we mainly grew (mini) gerberas until 2001. So basically I already have 43 years of horticultural experience.
Education: Agribusiness at Hogeschool Delft.
Work experience: I ended up in horticulture advice in 2001 after the sale of our greenhouse. I advised tomato, pepper and cucumber growers with their cultivation in all kinds of areas. From 2005 to 2020 I held technical sales positions at two seed companies, De Ruiter and Nunhems. Since March of this year I have accepted the challenge to start as Crop Advisor at Blue Radix.

What can you do for growers as a Crop Advisor? What does your day look like?
As Crop Advisor I am the link between the cultivation, the grower and the developers of Crop Controller at Blue Radix, the service for autonomous greenhouse management of Blue Radix. Due to my technical background, especially in greenhouse vegetable growing, I understand very well what the grower needs, in order to grow as optimally as possible.
I maintain close contact with our customers and assist them with advice on the autonomous implementation of the planned crop strategy and receive feedback on the algorithms that Crop Controller uses to control the cultivation.

Almost every day I open the portal of Crop Controller to see how the algorithms behave given the crop strategy of the grower. If any abnormalities come to light, I will contact the grower in question or, if it is technical in nature, the developers of Blue Radix. I also have a lot of discussions and brainstorms with product developers, data engineers of our development team to further develop Crop Controller.

What do you like about your job? And what do you think of autonomous growing?
The work is incredibly varied. It goes from product development to ultimately building the algorithms, but contact with the customer is also very important to know their experience with Crop Controller. The grower and the crop strategy of the grower are key to us. We can only learn or understand this when we have close contact with the grower. Physical customer visits are more difficult than before, because of the current Covid-19 situation, but with the various alternative means of online communication, we have come a long way. These are especially useful in contacts with foreign growers.

I fully support autonomous growing. The technology makes it possible and it is very important, especially given the shortage of people with expertise of growing crops in greenhouses. But also the growth of the world population and the urgency of fresh produced food. I am also aware that it will not just be applied to every company. Growing crops is not only the grower’s job, but often his or her passion. They are working on it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When a grower gets the feeling that everything is being taken from him or her, it will ultimately not work. We therefore develop the algorithms together and the grower can do what he or she does best, namely cultivating, planning and managing the crop. We can then realize their crop strategy for them through autonomous processes. This ensures that they have far fewer errors to fix and their most common actions, such as adjusting climate settings, are performed automatically. They can manage multiple greenhouse locations and realize their planned crop strategy. It remains a combination of human and machine.

Do you have a question for Jan or would you like advice on autonomous growing? 
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