From learning about horticulture to education at Cultivate’17

Greg Lafferty, our senior account manager, has hoping for years to educate all levels of growers in the horticulture industry during Cultivate, and this year he will finally get his chance. When you think about it, it’s probably a good thing that he waited this long.

We’ve learned so much in the first decade we’ve been working with the horticulture industry. But as I’ve always said, there’s a huge difference between “book learning” and “real-life learning.”

You learn so much more when you actually go to the different young plant growers, contract growers, or finished growers and learn about their day-to-day operations. You can see how technology needs change the more complex an operation is.

So now with 10 years’ experience of working with growers under his belt, Greg will lead three different educational sessions at Cultivate’17:

  • NR217 — Business Systems 101, Sunday, July 16, 4-5 p.m.
  • AI352 — Mysteries of the Cloud: Solved, Monday, July 17, 10:45-11:15 a.m.
  • AI432 — Mysteries of the Cloud: Solved, Tuesday, July 18, 10:30-10:50 a.m.

In Business Systems 101, Greg will go over the different types of business systems on the market, how to choose the right one for your operation and what to expect when you’re implementing the system. In Mysteries of the Cloud: Solved, Greg will explain what The Cloud is, how it works and its pros and cons.

Learning about horticulture before we can teach

In the 11 years since Practical Software Solutions has been involved in horticulture, we’ve said one thing constantly: We want to help educate the industry about software and technology.

We were fascinated with the industry when we were first introduced to it through Metrolina Greenhouses in 2006. Not only did we help each other by creating what is now known as Grower Vertical, but also we learned so much about the industry itself from Tom, Abe and Art Van Wingerden.

We learned how much of the industry is made up of family-owned businesses, some of which started in someone’s backyard and grew to the multi-million dollar companies they are today. We learned how many businesses in the industry tend to share information instead of keeping all business processes a secret.

After working with Metrolina during those first few years and learning from them, they agreed their modifications would benefit the entire industry and could be made available publicly. It would be disingenuous for me to pretend we weren’t pleased about this for business reasons. We were also pleased that we could bring our knowledge of the traditional manufacturing world to this industry that “manufactures” plants.

We started reaching out to the horticulture industry the best ways we could. We showed Grower Vertical for the first time at the OFA Short Course in July 2010. We participated in an article about greenhouse software in the October 2010 Greenhouse Grower magazine.

Most importantly, Metrolina Greenhouses told anyone who would listen about Grower Vertical and how it helped their business. It’s incredibly humbling when an industry leader like Abe Van Wingerden goes on record to say how our business relationship could help other growers, too:

Technology now top of mind for greenhouse growers

It’s amazing to think about how the world was so different just 10 years ago. To put it into perspective, 10 years ago this week, the iPhone hit the market for the first time. According to the Pew Research Center, a mind-boggling 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone as of January 2017.

Think about it: Smartphones went from novelty to ubiquitous in a decade. They (along with tablets) also replaced a multitude of other items, from GPS devices and PDAs to hand-held game consoles and digital cameras.

Possibly the most interesting statistic in the Pew study are the numbers of older Americans who have adopted smartphones. The research shows double-digit increases in Americans age 50-64 and 65 and older owning smartphones since their last research in 2015. These are astounding numbers for people in age groups who are not known for their adoption of new technology.

In that same decade, we’ve also seen growers become more willing to adopt new technology. Our observations were confirmed by Greenhouse Growers’ Top 100 Survey in 2016 and 2017. Last year, 70 percent of the Top 100 Growers said they would invest in software if they were going to invest in technology. This year, 45 percent said they would invest in software. (The questions were worded differently, which editor Laura Drotleff said accounted for some of the disparity.)

Another sign technology is becoming more important to the horticulture industry is there will be some technology educational sessions this year at Cultivate’17. Also, AmericanHort has scheduled its first-ever technology symposium in October.

Sharing our knowledge of the cloud and business systems

While you may think these sessions are targeted at people who may be novices to technology, we’ve learned over the years it’s never a bad idea to have a refresher course. And as far as The Cloud goes, we’ve seen people in the software industry confuse “The Cloud” and “web-based,” so we know there’s more than a few people who may be curious about this technology.

We hope you’ll be able to join Greg in one of his sessions at Cultivate’17. We’re looking to share our knowledge, but we’d also like feedback on his sessions as well. If you attend one of the sessions, give us a shout on Twitter (@consultpss) and tell us what you think.

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