Big Data in floral

ALKMAAR – Portret Frans Feldberg voor Flora Culture International over Big Data Science. © 2017 Foto: Nils van Houts

You think the digital revolution is over? You’re wrong. We’re in the midst of it. Finding, processing, analysing and distributing Big Data digitally is changing both the world and the floral business. So says Frans Feldberg, a Professor of Data Driven Business Innovation at VU University, Amsterdam.

Volume, variety, velocity

“Big Data is about large quantities of information from various sources being processed into action-oriented insights. Dealing with these volumes, varieties and velocities requires new, high performance technologies, computers of an enormous complexity and power not only to collect, but also process and analyse this data.”

Improve and innovate

“Entrepreneurs (growers and exporters, too) can use Big Data Analytics to improve their business by using sensors in their crops, for instance, to accurately predict problems and help solve them.

Big Data can also be used to innovate business models and create new services in relation to the product. Nowadays a grower isn’t just a grower anymore. Wherever his products are (soil, greenhouse, cooling store, truck, ship containers), he can install sensors, thus, generating data. By combining and analysing these numerous and various data sources using computer power and sophisticated models, new ways of growing, processing, and trading can be found, but also product and service innovation. By doing so organizations will discover new insight into recently-discovered issues. So as a grower you need to  know these previously unknown things before your competitor does.

When the 17th century Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope, this enabled him to look beyond cell walls, thus discovering the existence of bacteria and other microorganisms; things we didn’t know before the microscope was invented. In the end, the microscope has enabled human progress ever since. As such, Big Data Analytics is the 21st century equivalent of the microscope.”

It’s moving fast, extremely fast

“Don’t think there is time to lose. Don’t think you can wait and see how Big Data will change your world. Technical possibilities will follow Moore’s law and double every 18 months. This implies exponential growth: in five years, digital possibilities will be eight times larger than they are currently. So it won’t stop.”

If I was a rose grower…

“If I was a grower I would stay on top of developments. The thing is that data is portable because it can be disconnected from its artefacts, like flowers or soil. You used to need a record or CD to play music. Nowadays you don’t because music has become data that can travel anywhere thanks to the Internet. Combining the data of numerous MRI-scans, for instance, can give tremendous insights into  human health conditions. But does the doctor who makes the scans own the data or the supplier of the MRI equipment? Ownership of data will be decisive for future business: in health care and horticulture, among others. Being a grower, I would be keen to know who owns the data. Because the insights developed using this data can determine who will be in charge in establishing and managing relationships with important associates such as customers and suppliers. If others own my data, they can gain insights into my business and, based on these insights, take an advantageous  lead in many important processes, even disrupting my business. So  the question becomes: is that what I want?”

Cooperation is vital

“Big Data isn’t simple or cheap. Even multinational companies cannot explore every possibility and reap the benefits of being data-driven on their own. So the horticultural branch should be cooperative and create data-driven ecosystems in which many organizations join forces. Growers and traders should be aware with which business partners they can collect, process and analyse data in order to add value. Worldwide, Big Data-driven ecosystems are being incorporated into businesses.”

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