This interview details Ridder, an indoor farming technology company based in China. The interview is with Fulco Wijdooge, General Manager of Ridder.
This year, Ridder is celebrating its 70th anniversary. The family-owned company has a rich history of innovation, growth, and dedication to customers and employees, and has grown into a global player in the field of smart greenhouse technology, with 7 subsidiaries worldwide.
In 1953, founder Frans Nugteren connected a trench digger to a tractor to dig ditches more effectively as he was getting tired of the hard manual labor work on the farm. This marked the beginning of Ridder, originally based in Ridderkerk, The Netherlands (hence the name, Ridder means knight in Dutch). Automating agriculture to make life easier has been the goal ever since!
In 1967, the company began building reduction motors, also known later as drive systems.
Additionally, the company developed a post-calculation system for its own use, which is still a widely used ERP system in the steel and manufacturing industry today.
In 2011, HortiMaX from Pijnacker was added to the Ridder family. This allowed the company to offer its customers a broader range of solutions, including labor registration, water treatment, and climate control.
In 2015, Ridder saw a new opportunity in the horticultural sector and launched Climate Screens, a successful enterprise focused on climate screens. It marked a strategic shift to better meet customer needs and to provide a complete package for the horticultural sector. This approach was welcomed by dealers, greenhouse builders, investors, and growers.
One of the most recent highlights was the introduction of the GRoW tomato harvesting robot in 2021, addressing the increasing labor shortage in the horticultural sector.
Not every company has the same requirements as a Dutch grower, and we should carefully listen to the voice of the customer, following the principle of “think global, act local”. As a Dutch company, we have always been successful in upgrading and innovating premium solutions for mainly high-end glass greenhouses. For a significant part of the market though, clients require a good, affordable solution instead of just the premium option, which means we should adapt our offer to fit their requirements. The development of our RPD, a motor specifically designed for poly greenhouses is one of the examples of a more customer-centric approach.
Another challenge is the difference in the knowledge level of growers. An optimal use of climate control and irrigation requires dedicated crop management services such as the training we provide with our agronomists. Furthermore, we are working on the integration of AI and digital features so our solutions can help to optimize greenhouse operations as well as decision-making in an intuitive way.
Foremost, our long-term vision of a customer-centric approach to realize sustainable and profitable growth; customers are praising our long-term support and commitment, for example, the growing technology services provided by our cultivation specialists as well as sharing knowledge.
Innovation has always been a strong point and by integrating AI and digitalization we are continuing this trend. With our broad portfolio of innovative agricultural solutions ranging from drive systems to robotics, we can implement our smart integrated solutions strategy which requires not only a superb product but also one that is integrated fully into the greenhouse and works seamlessly with a wide range of technologies to meet the customer’s requirements.
Besides, we are open-minded and focused on building strong partnerships. For example, to enable integration a climate computer capable of interacting with external parties is required. Ridder facilitates this through its API Services to read and write data, effectively opening the doors to successful collaborations and innovative solutions in the world of autonomous growing.
The development of controlled environment agriculture will continue as we have more mouths to feed delicious and healthy food with shrinking agricultural land, under increasingly difficult climate circumstances. So, to future of the industry seems assured.
However, energy is a major bottleneck, as it raises the operational cost too high to stay profitable. This is especially true for vertical farms with their huge energy consumption. So, solving the energy crisis is a key concern if we want the trend for protected horticulture to continue; alternative energy sources such as geothermal energy are on the rise to overcome this problem, so circular agriculture will continue to be trending and other measures reducing energy usage or raising efficiency are to be expected.
Other trends are the dwindling number of people working in the industry so paired with digitalization I expect a further increase in horticultural robotics and development of autonomous greenhouses.
For sure look on our website www.ridder.com to connect or if you are living in China, you can use WeChat. We have a large network so do call one of our local offices or send an e-mail.
Ridder can be found in many greenhouses, so we gladly show you a project too to learn more about our solutions.
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