We are regularly asked questions about autonomous growing during conversations with growers and in our online demos. Jan Hanemaaijer, Crop Advisor at Blue Radix, answers five frequently-asked questions. Did you already know some of the answers?
1. How does Crop Controller handle having multiple sections in one greenhouse? Can you give each section its own strategy?
Yes, certainly. The chosen climate strategy is often calculated for the entire greenhouse, but is controlled separately per section, as is now the case. This certainly applies when, for example, different varieties or crops are grown in the same greenhouse. It then involves mainly the heating settings, tubes, ventilation strategy and window positions. Other settings, such as lighting or screen, often relate to multiple sections. Crop Controller can handle these different situations very well.
2. I currently have a climate computer. What does autonomous growing add to the current climate control?
The climate computer is a device to control plants, but its computing power is rather limited because of the hardware’s physical limits. Crop Controller runs entirely in the cloud, so that these limitations do not apply. To a significant extent, our smart algorithms let us take over the grower’s routine thinking and actions. We process an enormous amount of data to this end, so that it’s really an addition to the current operation with the climate computer.
3. Do the algorithms work better with more measuring points or sensors in the greenhouse? In short, is more data better for the result?
Quality is more important than quantity. A good data set means you can also grow autonomously without sensors. The result will be even better or more accurate if you use a good set of sensors. Blue Radix is currently participating in a TKI project called ‘Digital Green Fingers’, where we investigate which sensor set is suitable for autonomous cultivation. The results of this research will let us advise our customers better on which sensors would be worth investing in for autonomous cultivation.
4. How much time does it take to start growing autonomously? What are the initial steps a grower can take towards autonomous growing?
We start the process with an intake, where we discuss the cultivation strategy and the greenhouse and location data with the grower. Then we connect the climate computer and any sensors to Crop Controller. Training the algorithms begins after this. We discuss the results (climate profiles and calculated setpoints) very frequently with the grower. We begin phasing-in autonomous control once the grower feels confident. The grower is always in the driver’s seat.
5. How does Crop Controller deal with any internet outages? Does the autonomous control then stop?
Crop Controller optimizes the settings 48 hours in advance, or two full days for every five minutes. The system will continue to run with the settings defined by the Crop Controller in the climate computer in the unlikely event that internet access goes down. But these settings will not be updated while there is no internet connection. So it’s advisable to check the settings if such a failure occurs, and to adjust them if necessary. Blue Radix’s autonomous greenhouse manager will then contact and assist the grower.