How to use data analytics for better yield forecasting with greenhouse technology

Learn how to optimize yield forecasting using data analytics with greenhouse technology.

Table of Content

    What will your nurseries or greenhouses yield this year?  

    That’s the million-dollar question for every nursery or greenhouse grower right now. You need to know what quantities can be expected for each flower, plant, shrub—whatever it is that you grow. 

    It’s not so easy with the extreme climate swings you sometimes have to deal with. And let’s not forget about the challenges with pests and the supply chain impacts you have no control over.  

    Then there’s the labor pool.  

    Even if all these conditions fall just right, will you have enough workers (with the right skills) to produce and deliver sellable products? Not to mention you need the right people to market and sell your yield, along with a top-notch service team to handle customer issues. 

    Despite all these challenges that I’m sure you’re well aware of, you still need to find a way to forecast an accurate yield 

    And that’s exactly what we’re going to drill down into. 

    Workers using greenhouse technology.

    It’s all about how you handle data 

    Before we jump into the thick of it, we need to set the record straight: Your ability to forecast yield largely depends on how you handle data.  

    Do you pull… 

    • inventory 
    • production  
    • supply chain 
    • weather 
    • & product data  

    …from multiple systems?  

    Is your data stored on spreadsheets managed by users on an isolated laptop? Yikes. 

    Is your data only stored inside someone’s head? We’ve seen it before. 

    If you fall in any of these buckets, accurately predicting yield is nearly impossible. And by the time you finish, there’s a good chance that some of it is no longer valid.  

    The numbers have changed, and somebody forgot to tell you! 

    The truth is, collecting all the accurate data takes an act of heroism.  

    The role of centralized data analytics with greenhouse technology 

    When you integrate all your data into a centralized Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform, an accurate yield forecast is no longer a pipedream.  

    First, you can quickly access the data, and preconfigured reports can automatically generate all the information you need in an instant.  

    But what if the data changes?  

    Great question. Some ERPs (like Microsoft Business Central + SilverLeaf) automatically update your data and reports in real-time. You can even create alerts, so you know right away.  

    You will likely track environmental controls and conditions in external systems, and other resources within the ERP.  As you factor in the various resources your plants receive, you can run accurate forecasts to predict crop yield. This will also provide a big assist with your production capabilities down the line. 

    You can view plants by different stages of growth and where they are located. You can also match that to the production capacity of your greenhouse resources (machines and people) to process plants and get them ready for delivery to customers.  

    The accurate yield forecast will also enable you to optimize the allocation of water, nutrients, fertilizer, and other resources. 

    And yes, the future is exciting. Why? Artificial intelligence (AI) can also play a role in your yield forecast.  

    With automation gathering data from internal and external systems, you can use AI to make better decisions, such as forecasting demand based on industry drivers. You can also determine when to adjust the predicted yield and plant readiness based on knowing in advance when spring will start and when it will end. 

    You have the data. Now what? 

    The goal here is to turn data into “actionable insights” that directly contribute to better yield predictions.  

    You can use tools such as Microsoft Power BI integrated with your ERP system to visualize your data and make it easier to digest. Then once you have that, you can plan for weekly production for the year. Check out our quick video on how we do this within Microsoft Business Central with SilverLeaf:

    We also like to plan for and run various scenarios. To do this, try varying the amount of water, nutrients, or changing greenhouse temperature to see how these changes could affect plant growth, and ultimately, your yield.  

    Now that you are prepared for changing variables, you’ll want to monitor and adapt to the data in real-time. For that, you’ll need a dashboard that provides total visibility into your horticulture operations. This dashboard should alert you to any deviations from expected growth patterns or any operational inefficiencies.  

    These tools will help you get ahead of smaller issues before they become gigantic problems.  

    And speaking of tools… 

    Using the right data analytics tool 

    To accurately forecast yield, many greenhouse growers have turned SilverLeaf built on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.  

    By combining these two powerful solutions, workflows tailored for grower management can be configured to integrate with Microsoft Power BI to help you run a wide range of reports, like:  

    • Production planning 
    • Inventory testing results 
    • Product demand forecast 
    • Customer issue mitigation  
    • Vendor procurement planning 
    • Yield forecast yield based on production history 
    • Consumption rates, demand trends, and product popularity 

    SilverLeaf integrates financials, greenhouse production, plant inventory, shipping, and other processes so you can easily manage, measure, and track performance in real time.  

    For a real-world example, check out this success story to see how Westerlay Orchids leveraged data in Business Central for better decision-making. 

    Frequently Asked Questions 

    What is greenhouse technology? 

    Greenhouse technology involves a series of innovative tools and systems designed to enhance plant growth, production, and efficiency in a controlled environment. This tech spans everything from Dynamics 365 Business Central with SilverLeaf, to systems like climate control, automated watering, and lighting systems. 

    What are the advantages of greenhouse technology? 

    For starters, it allows for year-round cultivation, which is great for supply consistency and business stability. Plus, you have more control over environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and light so you can grow almost anything, anywhere. 

    What are the new technologies for greenhouses? 

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to be the talk of the town, and in horticulture, it’s no exception. If you are using Dynamics 365 Business Central as your ERP solution, you can also implement Microsoft Co-Pilot to take full advantage of the latest in AI tech.