First Consulting implements data platform in greenhouse horticulture

11 January 2019 5 min. read

First Consulting has worked with Hortilux, a supplier of plant growth light solutions for the greenhouse sector, in the design, development and implementation of a real-time web-based customer portal called HortiSense. The portal presents information collected by sensors in greenhouses to customers for further analysis. To deal with the increasingly large amounts of data being produced, First Consulting created a Big Data solution using the Splunk platform. In just 2 weeks the project team was able to deliver accelerated analysis, leveraging Splunk to greatly improve the performance of the HortiSense portal.

Hortilux is a company that develops innovative and efficient ‘grow light’ solutions for its clients. The company is leader in the use of hybrid growth lighting, which is the combination of LED and HPS lighting. This combination greatly improves the lifecycle of Hortilux’s systems and aids growers in optimising their grow light solution. In search of accelerated innovation, Hortilux engineers are looking into ways to perform historical data analysis to assist them in addressing software and systems engineering challenges. 

First Consulting helped Hortilux with research into which technology would be suitable to process and analyse the data more efficiently. It quickly became apparent that a solution based on Splunk and Mendix had the greatest potential to improve the user experience of the HortiSense portal, as it would leverage existing software, sensors, data and data architecture, whilst delivering scalability at speed. This data is used to calculate plant physiological models in the HortiSense portal, and it is displayed in real-time dashboards that provide insights into solar radiancy, CO2 concentrations, humidity and temperature levels to aid growers in maximising greenhouse production in a more predictable way. 

First Consulting implements Big Data platform Splunk in greenhouse Horticulture

What is Splunk?

After careful consideration, Splunk – a publicly traded company with a net worth of well over $1 billion – was chosen as the platform to be implemented. Elaborating on Splunk’s edge, Jon Nelmes, Managing Partner of First Consulting UK, said: “The platform excels in real-time data analysis and in real-time dashboarding, and these combined properties make it an excellent platform for IoT (Internet of Things) and Industry 4.0 use-cases, where Splunk is now establishing a clear dominance in the market. What makes Splunk different from other platforms is its way of structuring data. Splunk is not a ‘traditional data warehouse’ solution; it is very well adapted to process large amounts of unstructured (big) data from many different sources like sensors, machines, routers and system logs. This is due to the fact that Splunk stores raw data, and integrates well with other applications through the use of APIs – it is a highly scalable platform.” 

Consultancy firm and Splunk partner First Consulting further leveraged the potential of the platform by collaborating closely with Hortilux and using the platform to not only address the immediate need to perform analysis on sensor data, but to also use it in making the Mendix-based HortiSense customer portal scalable to meet future demand. 

Splunk Implementation

The Splunk platform excelled in two areas. The first being that, following only a couple of workshops, the Hortilux engineers, with no prior knowledge of the platform, were able to create their own dashboards for asset monitoring. These dashboards allow the engineers to perform real-time historic trend analysis on large data volumes.

Secondly, some of the demanding plant physiological calculations that were previously performed in the HortiSense portal were moved to the Splunk platform and integrated through a web service integration. This separation of the analytical platform and the HortiSense customer portal led to a four-fold increase in the speed of the required calculations. “This not only greatly improved the current user experience of the portal, but also enhanced the portal’s scalability potential for the future.” 

Next steps

By collaborating closely with Hortilux, and closely examining their business needs, First Consulting have greatly improved the value of the implementation of the Splunk platform. Within two weeks First Consulting validated that the Splunk platform was a good match for the needs of Hortilux by enabling engineers to perform real-time historic trend analysis and improving the performance of their customer portal. The solution is also well placed to scale-up, should this be necessary in the future, which enables Hortilux to continue development of new insights into greenhouse production to aid growers in maximising their greenhouse productivity. 

This project, in which process, technology and business change complement one another, is a typical example of the types of projects delivered by the circa 200 consultants employed by First Consulting. Nelmes: “We help industry leaders to achieve their operational goals. From problem analysis to successful implementation, First Consulting delivers end-to-end solutions which are implemented in close collaboration with the client to realise the best business results. We do so by combining in-depth process and systems expertise with operational know-how.” 

Related: Internet of Things cultivation boosts greenhouse horticulture.