Rick Gitzels looks back on his first year as the very first HortiHeroes Trainee

Rick Gitzels was the very first HortiHeroes Trainee last year. Having just graduated from VU, he started his HortiTech Innovation Traineeship at TNO in the spring of 2022 and switched to Ridder after 8 months. At both employers, he participates in innovation projects within the HortiTech domain. At the same time, the talented university graduate is offered the ‘Future Leader Programme’, to develop his management skills during the internship. Below, in a HortiHeroes story, he tells how he is experiencing this so far.

Why did you choose an internship?
Rick: “I come from a horticultural family, but apart from a part-time job in the greenhouse I wasn’t very involved in this sector. In Amsterdam, I took a master’s degree in digital innovation management at VU, where I focused on how digitization is important for companies and how they can best use it. After talking with my family, I learned more and more about the impact of digitization in the food and flower industry. I wanted to delve further into this; the influence of technology in this sector working on autonomous greenhouse technology is involved in the global food supply.

When I read online about the HortiTech Innovation Traineeship, I was immediately excited. The combination of digitization, global impact and the fact that you develop personally and professionally during the internship made me sign up. I want to learn and develop as much as possible – while contributing – and fill my backpack with knowledge. Knowing what is going on and where the challenges lie. I am convinced that you can identify so much better if you take on roles in different companies with different missions.”

What are you working on right now?
“After eight months at TNO, I have now been at Ridder for around 2 months. At TNO, I worked on a project where we, together with greenhouse builders, monitor their already sold greenhouses and optimize the operation of the greenhouses after the sale. You can see that greenhouse construction is increasingly leaning towards ‘growing as a service’ business models. With the project, we have developed a set-up for the Greenhouse Performance Monitor, with which we can monitor greenhouses worldwide and identify improvement points for the design of the greenhouse.

At Ridder, I am currently working on the innovation topic Computer Vision, where we investigate the impact and role of camera systems in greenhouses. I am really involved in the whole innovation process.”

The Dutch are building a greenhouse in one language that is equipped for the technology of the future
Rick at GreenTech Amsterdam 2022

How was the transition from TNO to Ridder?
“Just switch gears, haha. But you also get a lot of new energy from a new company and new projects. You must quickly get to know the company and the projects, understand what happens internally and what role the company plays in the entire ecosystem. For example, TNO works more sector-wide and at Ridder I go more in-depth. Both incredibly interesting and valuable!”

What makes this internship interesting for you?
“It’s not your ‘everyday job’. The fact that you can play a role in a dynamic sector with different companies makes the internship very cool for me. You get to know the sector well: what are the challenges for the future, what talent do we need, what are the latest innovations? In the two years you gain so much experience, both in breadth and depth. With a “normal” job, you immediately go in depth and now also get to know the breadth of the sector. That is truly the uniqueness of an internship.

In addition, you build a large network and I like that I can make a choice again after 2 years. An internship like this is therefore ideal if you don’t yet know exactly what you want.”

And what is the added value of HortiHeroes for you?
“Because the internship is combined with participation in the HortiHeroes Future Leadership Program, you immediately build a network of young professionals. We share a lot with each other, have good discussions and are inspired by training, events and excursions.

In addition, you really work with your personal development through guidance, coaching and development plans. So you are not only busy with your work, but also with yourself. This means that after two years you are ready to play a major role in the sector.”

Source: HortiHeroes

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