Meet Plant Specialist
Thijs van den Bergh

 

 

Finding the right formula to grow great crops indoors. That’s what Plant Specialist Thijs van den Bergh does at Philips GrowWise Center at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. He recently joined the Philips Horti team in Europe, and learns something new every day in this high tech plant playground.

From Swiss alpines to indoor grown lettuce


After receiving a Master’s degree in Plant Ecology from Wageningen University, Thijs combined his love of the outdoors with a PhD study on the hydrology of alpine ecology in Basel, Switzerland. He recently joined the Philips Horti team. Thijs says, “I was looking for a place where I could apply my knowledge and came in contact with the Philips city farming project. Growing plants indoors, in layers, is completely different from what I’m used to but there are many parallels. Outdoors everything varies and we cannot control much. In a city farm we have control over virtually everything. In the end I aim to understand plant – environment interactions. Based on that understanding we aim to develop what we call plant growth recipes: a formulation of the conditions needed to efficiently grow high quality crops. That work really appeals to me.”

Getting the numbers


Thijs works on research projects at the GrowWise Center with a team of application engineers and account managers. He says, “This interaction is very exciting. We discuss technical aspects, business considerations and plant characteristics, and that makes the job challenging.” Thijs designs and conducts experiments to improve Philips own growth recipes and develop the city farm system. “You might think that raising the heat by a few degrees will influence your lettuce, for instance, but you don’t know for sure until you have seen the actual numbers.”

Working in the plant playground


I get to work in one big plant playground,” says Thijs. “In our GrowWise center we can control all the aspects that influence a plant’s growth: temperature, light, humidity, CO2 ... But there are also the economic and technical considerations. Controlling the temperature very precisely might be great but comes with considerable costs. We are always looking to make smart decisions based on what benefits the plants and what is cost-efficient.”

Making the right choices

 

This job is all about making smart choices says Thijs. “One challenge is the crops themselves. Each crop needs different growing conditions, e.g. different nutrients or climate. Also, you can’t try out everything. We have to prioritize the experiments and pick the factors that bring the biggest improvements in terms of system design or growth recipes. In the end that is what makes the successful business case.”

New crops, new choices

 

After just a few months Thijs has already seen some interesting results. “We are doing an experiment to develop growth recipes for a range of new Asian leafy vegetables. Also our first experiments for growing strawberries have produced promising results. In the end we want to create a city farm where you can grow as many different plants as possible. I think this is a logical next step for producing high quality food that is free of pesticides. It’s exciting to be part of making that a reality.”

Thijs van den Bergh
Plant Specialist

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Events  

IPM – Essen, Germany

24-27 January

 

Fruit Logistica – Berlin, Germany

8-10 February

 

HortiContact – Gorinchem, The Netherlands

14-16 February

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