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Meiny Prins, Priva, ready for new future:

"With our new direction we want to answer grower's questions more clearly"

After 60 years of active service in the horticultural industry as a producer, Priva is ready to pivot into a new direction. Since 2015 the company has been slowly preparing for a future that they are now ready to commit to; providing services in addition to their hardware solutions. Meiny Prins, CEO of Priva: “2015 to 2020 has been an important period for Priva to adapt to our vision of the future, and now we are ready to commit to it.”

Priva has been active since 1959 and launched the first climate computers in 1977

Climate computer
When you think of Priva, you probably think of a climate computer. And even though that’s the backbone of the company, Meiny Prins with Priva is also convinced it’s not the heart of the company. “When talking about a climate computer, you’re actually talking about realizing the perfect climate. The same goes for a water installation: you’re not selling a machine, you’re helping growers with clean water.” And there’s more to it. “In the end it is mostly about the service to improve the crop by providing insight on what’s happening within. The grower wants answers to his questions, ‘what is the climate like?’, ‘do I have clean water? Measuring this information is one thing, but turning that into useful knowledge for the grower is much more important”, she continues. “With our new direction we wanted to answer those questions more clearly, rather than giving the tools to do so.”

That’s because in the end, there are many more questions to be answered and more actions to be taken. “Following these questions and this information, we also wanted to give growers tools to use the information to better the climate, better the water quality and water use and better the energy efficiency.”

Digitizing knowledge
In order to do so, they started digitizing knowledge and now they are launching the result of this journey: several services to help growers achieve better results based on data from their own greenhouse. “A grower balances between the technology available to him and the knowledge he has on growing – a super special job that is and one of which the availability around the world became scarce.”

Priva Growth Labs
Sounds a bit like a dream and a bit surreal? The team at Priva thought the same. The launch of new technologies can make it difficult to get a good idea of what it actually does for your company. To give customers a better idea of the value of their technologies Priva started the Growth Lab. “The Growth Lab allows us to visualize the experience of using our technology,” says Meiny. “It allows us to show what these new developments mean for our customers, and what it means for their plants. Experiencing is an important part of it; we want to make the benefits more clear.”

There are two different Growth Labs inside the Priva Campus where they showcase their technologies in a way that people can experience them; one for buildings and one for horticulture (greenhouses and indoor farming) – the divisions Priva thrives in.

Priva also wants to use these experiences to show the true value of the techniques and technology they have to offer.

The well-known Priva building

Phil – Priva Horticulture Innovation Labs
As the existence of the Growth Lab shows, for Priva it is very important to know that the services they are delivering are of value to the customer. To be sure of this they are also investing in innovation labs, starting with Phil, which is short for Priva Horticulture Innovation Labs. In these labs, new ideas can be developed fast and by running pilots with new services. Priva can test the waters and get a better idea of what the customer thinks is valuable. Currently, autonomous growing and energy savings, and making that visible for the clients are focus areas. “If you want to deliver a service, you have to also ask yourself what kind of value you are creating for your customers,” says Meiny. “You can bring anything into the cloud and call it a service, but if it doesn’t add any value it is not worth the bandwidth.” Read more about Phil here.

Ambition in sustainability and urban areas
The new activities fit in Priva’s ambition and the vision that has Meiny’s heart: pushing for better incorporation of agriculture into urban areas. Over the last decade, she’s been actively promoting her concept of Sustainable Urban Deltas all over the world and tirelessly shared the story about how the impact of climate change on our food production has become such an issue that billions of people will go hungry by 2050, if we keep the system as it is.

Even though the story is adapted broadly, and the Dutch horticultural industry as a whole started positioning itself more and more as a part of the solution to the global food problem, Meiny says the story still needs to be shared.

“The green belt that is consistently being pushed out needs to be incorporated into the planning in large urban areas,” she says. “We need urban farming at a serious scale to combat this issue. Beijing today is a city of 12 million, the green belt surrounding the city only supplies about 10% of its food and the rest is being imported from other areas – anything but sustainable. This is why we are calling large cities into action. They need to start feeling responsible for rethinking how to feed their populace.”

Food system adjusted
And it’s not just words. This story also played an important role in the development of new products. Meiny is convinced that the entire food system needs to be examined, and subsequently changed, in order to have a real impact. “The current monoculture of food production is a big burden on the environment,” she says. “30% of CO2 emissions come from food production. Priva wants to combat this by connecting the dots, for instance by using the wastewater of a city for food production or having a tomato grower deliver energy to an entire residential area. We can’t solve this problem on our own. We’re not a turnkey player, nor do we want to be. We want to be the connector between users, and we want to help close the gap with the economy.”

That’s where the new services come in. “Dutch growers have been ingested with the importance and the knowledge on how to reach optimum efficiency in their crop. The global character of the industry urged us to make this knowledge also available to growers with a different background – whether it’s Chinese real estate or Russian retail. With our services we want to make optimization available to them and with the Growth Labs we want to show them what they can do.”

The new services are provided as subscriptions. Priva’s responsibility for the value of their product does not stop after bringing a service into the cloud. “Putting software in the cloud is the easy part,” says Meiny. “But the more important part of it is taking the customers’ feedback and making the service more valuable through their input. A cloud set-up allows for easy updates on the customer side, as well as easily accessible sources of information and direct feedback. It also gives us an opportunity to offer direct support to customers with more specific issues. This adds a lot of value to the service.”

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