During conversations with growers and during our online demos, we are regularly asked questions about autonomous growing. Jan Hanemaaijer is Crop Advisor at Blue Radix and answers 5 frequently asked questions. Did you know the answer to these questions already?
- Can autonomous growing be applied in different types of greenhouses, so in glass and plastic greenhouses?
Yes, it can! The main thing is that it must be a high-tech greenhouse. That means that an internet connection can be used and automatic climate and CO2 control. Most of these greenhouses are made of glass, but in certain countries and regions they are made of plastic or polycarbonate. That doesn’t matter for the optimization and control of the climate with algorithms.
- Do you need certain hardware for autonomous growing with Crop Controller?
For autonomous growing, you need a climate computer with a climate measuring box per climate department. No additional investment in hardware is required. The climate and weather data that rolls out of the climate computer is exported to the Crop Controller database. Using smart algorithms, an optimal climate is subsequently predicted and setpoints are calculated. These setpoints are then sent back to the climate computer. More and more plant and climate sensors are available on the market. These are not necessarily required for autonomous growing. However, sensors can refine the control. We are investigating which sensors will produce interesting and usable data in a TKI research project. This is something we can properly advise the grower on. In the coming years, sensors will become increasingly accurate and add value. We are following this closely.
- What data does Crop Controller use and what data do we need to provide if we want to start?
At the start of a new project, we always perform an intake. During the intake, we discuss as many issues as possible regarding the relevant crop and its cultivation strategy. The most important thing is that a grower has an idea of what he wants to achieve in his climate to achieve his cultivation goal. Of course, we will also discuss which climate computer the grower uses and which climate departments need to be linked to Crop Controller. We then agree on the contact moments and start reading out the climate computer. For this we use a solution available in the market. Reading out the climate computer and training the algorithms go without saying. And then the real work begins for Crop Controller.
- For which crops is the Crop Controller currently available?
In principle, the Crop Controller is suitable for all greenhouses with climate and possibly CO2 control. However, we are currently most experienced with greenhouse vegetables. Unlike many ornamental crops, vegetable glasshouses are mainly monocultures with a clear crop and climate strategy. Also, there are usually 1, 2 or at most 3 growing seasons a year. This makes it easier to define a clear crop or climate strategy in Crop Controller. Nevertheless, we are already working on making Crop Controller suitable and scalable for other (ornamental) crops such as orchids or cut flowers in the near future.
- What other applications of autonomous growing can be found in Dutch commercial greenhouses?
Data-driven growing is currently on the rise. Various platforms are working on their own interpretation. The focus of these platforms is on presenting data on dashboards. The grower still assesses the data streams himself and is still at the controls. We see this differently! Why not put the data to work and use algorithms to steer autonomously? That’s our starting point. We develop algorithms that optimize and actually steer.
Another good example is BiedOptimaal from AgroEnergy. By using smart algorithms, the grower or energy manager can make bids on the energy market autonomously and at the right time and steer his crop with the available energy sources.
In the foreseeable future, as Blue Radix, we will also link Crop Controller to an energy and irrigation module. In the longer term, we also foresee a link with modules for crop protection. We are developing this with partners.
Do you have a question about autonomous growing?
Please let us know we are happy to answer them.
You can ask your questions here.