Horti-Tech in 2023

State of Horticulture and Ag-Tech in 2023 with focus on emerging greenhouse tech, market conditions (war in Ukraine, inflation) and labor issues.

By Dr. Saber Miresmailli

CEO and Founder of ecoation

Welcome to the future.

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace before our very eyes. The world is changing in ways we have yet to fully realize. We are in the midst of a revolution regarding AI technology and robotics, and with this will come an entirely new way of life that is being carved out every day. 

So what does this mean for the world of horticulture? And more specifically, what does this mean for you?

While we aren’t quite at the point where ChatGPT can generate an entire tomato crop growth plan, there are still many innovative solutions that you can use right now.

Our line of work, like any other, will change alongside advancements in technology. As tech advances, so will growing practices. This means more automation, higher efficiency, and different ways of doing certain tasks. 

What if I were to tell you that by the end of this year, 50% of all greenhouses in Canada will be utilizing some form of digitized crop monitoring? Will you be ahead of the curve, or will you fall behind by sticking to non-digitized means of crop assessment?

By paying attention to advancements in technology, early adopters have the opportunity to position themselves at the forefront of their respective markets.

Advancements in technology usually come as a result of necessity during periods of turmoil. Our current landscape is no exception. With the costs of materials going up and labor being in short supply, growers will need to get creative if they want to get ahead over the next several years. 

What should growers know about technology to ensure their operation is future-proof? Keep reading to find out. 

Innovation Takes Time

Did you know the first climate computer was made over 20 years ago, and that it took a full decade for that technology to become commonplace?

What this means is that even though something may provide immense value, it doesn’t necessarily become universal overnight. 

For innovation to occur, it requires a select few early adopters to take risks. The market as a whole will only see the value in new technology if someone is willing to take an initial chance on it.

While I see the next several years being a time of accelerated change in our space, this change will still take time to materialize. 

This is good news for those willing to adopt innovative practices earlier than the rest of the market. Future-proof your operation by refusing to wait for the market to demand change. Instead, be the one demanding that change.

It’s Time to Question Assumptions

“There will be a small minority who push the market forward, while the majority of growers will adopt only when the markets demand it of them.“

Some of our assumptions are undoubtedly incorrect. The question is, who will recognize what needs to change?

With inflation being a major concern, over the next year, many growers will be backed into a corner. While most will see this as a period of recession, some will take it as an opportunity to bet on new technology, and will make great strides as a result. 

What I would like to put forward is that you shouldn’t wait till the last minute to try something new. In anticipating the turmoil to come over the next year, look for opportunities to innovate right now.

Where To Innovate

Consider areas where your greenhouse is lagging behind advancements in technology. In doing so, you may be able to stay ahead of market demands and strengthen your operation. 

Take digitized monitoring and data-driven growing as an example of this. What this technology provides is the ability for growers to have more accurate communication with marketers, as well as having more complete knowledge of what’s working, and what isn’t. 

Look at dynamic LED lights that allow you to adjust light levels per fixture and bring higher levels of control to your greenhouse. Explore autonomous growing solutions that learn and adjust your growing recipes using a data-driven AI core. Try sensors that read the electrical pulses of your plants and tell you if the conditions are optimal for their growth. Install a new fog system that can sustain uniform humidity in your greenhouse or an entirely new growing system that can set you up for great success. Get a new spray system for your strawberries or a robot that can put biologicals on your crop. 

I anticipate the majority of greenhouses in Canada will adopt some form of these technologies over the next year. This means the market will quickly begin to realize the benefits gained from these advancements.

Of course, there will always be risks associated with implementing technology before it becomes commonplace. However, by looking for opportunities and questioning assumptions, you are betting on the future instead of reacting in times of crisis.

Consider this. Would you rather take the risk and be an early adopter, or play it safe now and be struggling to catch up for years to come?

Turmoil Brings Change, Change Brings Growth

It’s clear enough that we’re in a state of global turmoil. Luckily enough, history shows that turmoil often leads to great innovation. Uber and Airbnb, for example, both came out of a recession. 

What’s required for this innovation is for a select few to not see turmoil as a time of struggle, but as an opportunity for growth.

While the market takes time to adapt to new technology, the boldest among us seize the opportunity to position themselves ahead of the curve. Early adopters wait for the market to catch up to them, not the other way around. 

Take the next years to seek out growth opportunities, even if they may seem radical at first. In several years, that technology may become commonplace.

By taking those risks now, you can bring your business into the future. Instead of trying to catch up to current trends, let the rest of the world catch up with you.

Pssst… Over Here!

Now, for those of you that stuck around till the end, I want to reveal a secret and also give you a piece of advice.

I am saying this as a technology provider and a former greenhouse grower and farmer. The secret to implementing innovative technology is that both hardware and software require trial and error to work their best. Don’t expect perfection out of the box because you won’t get it. 

Now the advice that I have for you that will hopefully save you both time and money. Select your next piece of innovative technology from a provider that actually has boots on the ground. People who will be there for you right away when you need them. Someone that you can call Friday afternoon who will fix the damn thing before Monday comes! 

If the provider offers people who stand behind the technology and walk the walk with you, you will certainly be successful. If all you get is an email and a phone number that brings you to a robot chatbox, well… think about where that will get you when there is a crisis. 

You are the wise farmer. You know what you need to do! 

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