Data-driven software from Ridder makes the greenhouse smarter and greener 

Data-driven software from Ridder makes the greenhouse smarter and greener 

The greenhouse is getting smarter 

The Dutch are global specialists in greenhouse horticulture. The Netherlands has built up considerable experience in growing vegetables, fruit, and flowers in greenhouses. We also possess significant knowledge and expertise about optimizing this type of horticulture and making it more sustainable. Greentech is vital to horticulture in the Netherlands, and also a vital export. Data and software are playing an increasingly important role in this field.

As a result of consolidation, greenhouse horticulture companies are becoming larger and more knowledge-intensive. Factor in long-standing challenges in human resources and you’ll see there are various reasons to further increase yield. Modern greenhouse horticulture complexes are equipped with numerous sensors, enabling growers to measure and control all kinds of variables in the greenhouse, thereby optimizing crop growth strategies.

Picking robot

In recent years, focus on large-scale, automated greenhouse data analysis has increased, which makes data collection interesting, states Ronald Debeij, Manager Product Development and R&D at Ridder. He sees this development as a prelude to the next step in digital horticulture – which is why Ridder is investing in innovative solutions focused on data analytics and automation.

Ridder is a market leader in solutions and systems that enable horticultural companies and their suppliers to make their businesses and projects as successful as possible. Products range from mechanical systems – such as solution for regulating the supply of air or water – to digital services and even robotization. For example, the company is currently developing of a picking robot for tomatoes.


Ridder sees great potential in data-driven crop growth strategies that help horticulturists make the right decisions based on analyses and predictions. Such choices could even be made autonomously by AI, without the need for green fingers. To realize this, you need a platform, says Debeij, and that starting point immediately urges you to think about where you store data, and what data to allow on your platform. For Ridder, the latter is a foregone conclusion: all kinds of suppliers – such as parties with expertise in the field of light, water, or CO2 – ought to be able to connect to the platform. Data should be stored in a central location – securely protected, of course.

If your dataset contains enough data, and the right types of data, you can eventually predict what your harvest will be. The next step is the autonomous greenhouse.

Ronald DebEij – manager product development R&D


“One of the key questions was: are we going to do this ourselves or outsource?” says Debeij. “If so, which technology do we use?” Ridder decided that a partner was required to develop the platform. Debeij had built up experience with IT outsourcing in his previous role, and NetRom was already on his list. However, Ridder also has its own in-house development capacity. At first, enthusiasm for a nearshore software development partner was low. “During a visit to NetRom in Romania, local teams showed what they can do when it comes to platforms, how they work, and how they support customers. At the end of the first day, both Ridder product managers and a programmer were extremely enthusiastic and highly positive”

Proof of concept 

NetRom and Ridder have been working together successfully for several years now. Cooperation started with the development of a PoC for an application aimed at horticultural managers. This was followed by development of HortOS, the overarching open platform, followed by productivity module Ridder Productive. “Today, most horticulturists are dealing with managers and investors, who want to be able to benchmark: which companies are performing best? You might conclude that yields from horticulturist A are two kilos greater than those from horticulturist B, but if it turns out that horticulturist B is using less energy per kilo, who’s doing a better job?” If your dataset contains enough data, and the right types of data, you can eventually predict what your harvest will be. The next step is the autonomous greenhouse,” says Debeij.

Over the past five years, the number of developers on both sides has increased. “Among other things, we have created a module for crop managers and a module for forecasting harvests. Finally, we had a component developed so that external parties and innovations can join in, too.”

Working together with an external partner 

Successful cooperation with a nearshore party is not always a given. Debeij: “From my experience, I knew that being in control is essential.” Of course, that starts with a clear vision and a clear goal: what do you want to achieve with Ridder? Furthermore, it is vital that all team members know that their input is listened to and can see their impact on the end result. But as far as Debeij is concerned, ‘being in control’ is about much more than goals, time, and money. “It’s also about making sure you really get to know each other – and organizing social activities. If we have a success here, they’ll also be eating cake in Romania. We give away merchandise. Or have a meal together in the NetRom canteen.”

“Of course, we understand that we can’t just call on each other whenever we feel like it. However, in our own country we saw during COVID that we don’t primarily depend on direct contact. We regularly organize demos which our NetRom colleagues, and everyone else, can attend. In the coming period, we would like to invest in working visits, during which NetRom developers in the Netherlands come to have a look at the greenhouse – something that was not possible during the pandemic.”

Added value 

Ridder now has a clear picture of the added value NetRom can offer as a development partner. “We have a permanent team, with no churn, which can be scaled up if necessary. We can share our software challenges with teammates in Romania, who then consult with their fellow teams. If we’re wondering what the best technology would be to develop a certain app – HTML5 or Flutter? –NetRom’s experts will come up with solid advice and help us think out of the box – all too often, you don’t realize how ‘fixed’ your ideas are.” Debeij has also had a positive impact on the quality of Ridder’s development process. Introduction of Agile and Scrum has led to a tightly organized way of working, which also benefits collaboration. “We are of course very pleased that NetRom also scores highly on the Giarte ITX benchmark, something we didn’t realize at first.”

Strategic importance

The strategic value of collaboration with NetRom is evident to Debeij. “NetRom enables us to keep growing as an innovator. This not only leads to recognition from customers, with whom we now conduct business in a more direct way, but also to recognition from the market as a whole – we have won several awards and received nominations. It also strengthens internal awareness: we are doing a great job, in an innovative way. Our mechanical products, part of our roots as a company, can now be controlled in an increasingly smart way. This is proof of synergy between our business units.”

About Ridder

Ridder, an internationally operating family business, has been around for over 65 years. Ridder develops solutions that enable horticultural companies working in ‘covered cultivation’ (vegetables, fruit, greenhouse flowers) and their suppliers to make businesses and projects as successful as possible. Solutions range from mechanical systems to digital services, such as solutions for climate control (type and amount of light, soil, water, CO2, temperature) and time and activity recording, as well as controllers for comparing cost and revenue. In recent years, the company has received nominations and awards such as the prestigious GreenTech Innovation Award. Recognized innovations include NoNa+, a water treatment unit that allows greenhouse growers to minimize their water footprint, and the CO2 Optimizer, the first autonomous advisory tool that helps growers apply the best possible CO2 dosing strategy.

Back-end technologies

Looking for reliable software development services?
See how we can help.