In the June issue of Greenhouse Canada Magazine a close look at how artificial intelligence systems are already making inroads to help growers better manage their energy use, improve yields and more. In the article Ronald Hoek, CEO of Blue Radix tells more about Crop Controller, the collaboration with OGVG and the future of AI in greenhouses. Below a summery of the article. You can read the whole four page article via the link below.
Greenhouse environments are already among the most automated and controlled on the planet, but similar to what’s occurring in many sectors, artificial intelligence (AI) systems are now taking control to unprecedented levels. Because of their ability to process enormous amounts of data and make tiny, continuous adjustments, AI systems are beginning to provide greenhouse operators with a myriad of production-related benefits – and paying for themselves in a very reasonable period of time.
The cloud-based Crop Controller system by Blue Radix takes into account the grower’s own unique crop strategy, along with all available greenhouse environmental data. It changes conditions where needed every 15 minutes to maintain an optimal climate for the crop, crop stage, ambient light and so on. The greenhouse’s existing measure boxes and sensors are used, but “if a grower chooses to invest in additional sensors,” says CEO Ronald Hoek, “we advise what is valuable in combination with our smart-steering algorithms.” ROI depends on several individual elements, he notes, including yield optimization and current yield levels. “We see huge differentiations between greenhouses of the same size and with the same varieties,” Hoek explains. The system makes adjustments to the environment to help improve the crop and to realize ROI gains, he says. It can also correct missteps that may have occurred without it, and significantly increases the area that can be managed by one grower.
Blue Radix is currently working with 16 greenhouse companies – one in the U.S. and the rest in Europe. In Canada, it has announced a project funded by phase two of the Greenhouse Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative (GCII), collaborating with Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG). Starting with three producers, the project seeks to identify the value of autonomous climate management in Canada, as well as help Crop Controller address specific needs of Canadian climates.
AI will become the new standard in many Canadian greenhouse operations and will allow people to grow their greenhouse footprint without the need to expand their management team. In other words, greenhouses will be able to run a larger cultivation area under the direction of the same number of growers/managers. Hoek also lists labour as a main factor that will affect the rate of AI adoption in the greenhouse sector. “Many companies are concerned about the availability of experienced growers. This is an enormous challenge for the industry on a global scale and also in Canada. This urgency drives greenhouse owners to work with new innovative technologies,” he says. But first, they must show results and prove that there is value to Canadian growers.