How can we keep working in horticulture enjoyable?

October 28, 2022

In the greenhouse of the future, simple, repetitive tasks will be performed by robots. But it's not that far yet: it's going step by step. In the coming decades, employees will work in an environment that is increasingly robotised, mechanized and digitalised. How can greenhouse horticulture – which is already having trouble finding employees – ensure that enough people want to work in and around the greenhouse?

The Business Unit Greenhouse Horticulture and Flower Bulbs of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is starting the Joyride Horticulture project, in which good working conditions are sought for workers who work in the primary process. These are mainly migrant workers.

Migrant workers in the primary process

Much of the work in the primary process of a greenhouse horticulture company is carried out by migrant workers, who are also getting older and further along. They work in an increasingly warm and humid environment. Contact with colleagues is becoming less because machines have taken over part of the logistics operations: the employees are also less mobile in their work. In addition, these activities are becoming increasingly short-cycled. And by applying data, employees are increasingly assessed on personal performance , which also means that there is less room for mutual contacts.

Working in greenhouse horticulture is therefore also becoming less attractive for migrant workers, while greenhouse horticulture needs them. That is why WUR is starting the Joyride Horticulture PPP project. In it, 6 'Personas' in horticulture are developed into concrete solutions and products.

Solutions and products greenhouse horticulture

In 'The Cool Worker', WUR is looking for ways to make working in the greenhouse less hot, for example through adapted clothing, active ventilation and local cooling and shade. In 'The Ambient Worker' it is all about using digital techniques to support the employee in his or her work, for example through video instructions and direct feedback of the task quality performance from intelligent systems and machines. The path 'The Social Worker' is about contact with colleagues and coaching management: how can an employee, for example, still keep in touch with colleagues during work via an image and headphones?

'The Team Worker' is about the cohesion within a team in the workplace. How can they feel more involved with each other, for example by running their department as a mini-company and monitoring performance as a team. 'The Safe Worker' is about physical health and safety: this includes, for example, fitness and injury-free work. Finally, 'The Cobot Worker' is about the future of work: what will workplaces, task planning and internal transport look like in the future if part of the work is done by robots?

Joyride Horticulture carries out a number of 'socio-technical experiments': the
different paths are explored together with, among others, greenhouse
horticultural entrepreneurs and their employees (who are addressed in their own
language). The aim is to ensure that horticulture remains an attractive
employer, among other things through greater appreciation for employees.