With GreenTech taking place in June this year, growers have only had to wait 12 months since the three-day horticultural exhibition was last staged at the RAI in Amsterdam. FCI talks to RAI director of horticulture Mariska Dreschler about what’s in store.
What was the reason for moving Greentech from a biennial to an annual format five years after the show was first held?
“It’s because of the speed with which horticultural technology is advancing. The pace of development has really become much faster in the last few years. Technology is the main focus for GreenTech, so we wanted to be able to keep visitors as up to date as possible. We work hard to present advances in technology in ways that will inspire the industry about the future and enable our visitors to learn and understand what the future holds ¬– how to future-proof their businesses.”
How has the show grown since the first event in 2014?
“Exhibitor numbers have increased steadily, by over 50% to more than 470 this year, with the most innovative companies from around the world taking part. Being able to meet them all under one roof makes it easy for growers to find answers to the latest challenges in crop production, to find the new technologies that will enable them to produce more efficiently and effectively. We also have a comprehensive knowledge exchange programme through our ‘Summit’ on GreenTech’s second day, and through our daily ‘theatres’ which are a series of short technical presentations on some of the current key challenges for growers.”
What was the thinking behind the theme of autonomous technology for the 2019 Summit?
“Autonomous technologies and the ability to connect sensors and equipment using the internet, the so-called ‘internet of things’, is fast becoming the normal way to work and this is reflected across GreenTech ¬– it’s what many of our exhibitors will be talking about to the show’s visitors. It follows up on last year’s Summit, which looked at where artificial intelligence (AI) and internet connectivity is taking us and where horticulture will be in 10 years’ time. Growers are, for example, already routinely using root-zone sensors to monitor and control nutrient levels, and by then we’ll be able to measure every aspect of crop production. Speakers will also highlight the technologies that horticulture could borrow from other sectors, such as shipping, and discuss the threats or benefits that AI presents to different cultures around the world in countries where horticulture is a significant industry.”
You have used the phrase ‘beyond the green thumb’ to describe the theme but does that mean growers’ skills will no longer be important?
“What won’t change is the human factor and we will be talking at the Summit about how that and automation will fit together. We will always need the grower’s skill, and growers will need new skills.
‘We know a lot of growers are looking at the opportunities medical cannabis offers’
Four themed pavilions will see companies grouped together which specialise in kit and equipment for vertical and indoor growing; organic production; precision agriculture; and medical cannabis. Why is the time right to feature this crop?
“The market for medical cannabis is beginning to develop more in Europe as well as in other regions thanks to changes in government policies and we know a lot of growers are looking at the opportunities it offers. The role for GreenTech is to bring growers and equipment suppliers together to ensure the crop can be grown using the best available technology and materials. The companies who supply growers in the protected vegetables and flowers sectors already have the expertise required for cannabis-growing facilities.”
Are GreenTech’s organisers exploring ways to offer more sources of information besides the three-day event in future?
“We’ll be expanding the physical exhibition further but have also started to see how its website could offer more information and matchmaking between growers and suppliers all year round. In the meantime, we’re encouraging visitors who register in advance for tickets to GreenTech this year to use the ‘matchmaking app’ which, by entering details of the topics you’re interested in, will point you to the exhibitors and exhibition features that are likely to be of most relevance. It will even help you set up appointments in advance so that you can really plan your visit to get the most out of it.”
What else is there to look forward to?
“There will be a few other ways we are planning to surprise our visitors this year but you’ll have to attend to find out!”
Are you ever likely to team up at some point with the International Floriculture Trade Fair (held close to Amsterdam in November)?
“We are always open to join forces with other exhibitions if it adds value for the exhibitor or visitor, but sometimes there is better value when the events are separate and focus on different aspects.”
Visitors: In 2018, 15,000 industry professionals from 112 countries.
Dates: June 11-13 2019
Tuesday 11 June 2019 10:00 – 18:00 hours
Wednesday 12 June 2019 10:00 – 18:00 hours
Thursday 13 June 2019 10:00 – 17:00 hours
Venue: RAI Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Autonomous technology will be the focus of attention at GreenTech’s Summit 2019, which will be held on the second day of the AIPH-approved trade fair in Amsterdam. Announced as keynote speaker is corporate anthropologist who travels the world searching for ways to build strong tribes and to reinforce the relationships between people. Kramer will give attendees great insight from an outside perspective.
The summit will also include a presentation on autonomous ship technology (two weeks after the GreenTech RAI will host its Autonomous Ship Technology conference) .
One session will be focused on talking about autonomous greenhouses, based on research from the Netherlands’ prestigious Wageningen University.