HOW WE CUT ENERGY COSTS AND IMPROVED CROP QUALITY IN A VERTICAL FARM
Daily Light Integral (DLI) optimization
DLI is the amount of usable light plants receive throughout a day. Vertical farms heavily depend on artificial lighting (LED lamps) to provide light to plants and it is one of the biggest contributors to the OPEX of running an indoor farm. In the current economic environment, cutting down energy costs has become all the more important for farmers all around the world.
Plants require a certain amount of light to photosynthesize all the sugars it needs to survive and grow. Providing more than necessary without changing other inputs can result in wasting energy. With our multispectral cameras, we detect how well plants are photosynthesising and hence can determine the effects of DLI on the plants. When plants receive more light than they need, they get stressed and such extended periods can lead to wilting, stress and tip burns all of which lead to reduced yield and overall reduction in the quality of plants.
In the case of one of the vertical farms we work with, we compared different DLI regiments and identified that the plants photosynthesize better and were less stressed with a lower DLI regiment than the one currently used in their production. Our recommendations helped them reduce their energy consumption and consequently their energy bills by 25%.
harvesting crops on time
Plant maturity tracking and harvest notification
Everyone understands the importance of harvesting crops on time. It allows farmers to sell their crop at their best condition while meeting the stipulated standards such as height and weight. However, if not harvested on time, the crops deteriorate and/ or consume resources (space, energy and nutrients) which lead to unnecessary economic loss. Harvesting at the correct time can also help reduce cycle length, which can even lead to achieving extra growing cycle(s) per annum, which increases profits.
With our multispectral cameras we track the growth of plants and how healthy they are. When plants are ready to be harvested, you get notified on our dashboard along with where exactly these plants are within your growing facility. With our analysis, we can also help determine what is the best cycle length for your crops, given that there are real life limitations dependent on the sophistication levels of the control systems of every farm.
With one indoor farmer we work with, we helped reduce their cycle length for growing lettuce by 2 days and avoided tip burns in doing so. Not only did this reduce wastage and OPEX costs, it allowed them to gain 24 more days per year to increase their number of crop cycles and increase profits.
FACILITY VENTILATION STRATEGY
Creating uniform optimal growing conditions by strategic equipment placement
Creating homogeneous growing conditions throughout the facility allows farmers to achieve consistent results every cycle. However, this is hard to achieve for two reasons. One, indoor climate is a dynamic system, and second, it is impossible to know how the conditions vary at different parts of the facility with just one sensor box in the middle of the facility, which is a common practice currently.
With our Air Nodes and Camera Nodes, we break down the farm into multiple micro climates. This allows a farmer to compare growth of plants in different sections of their farm, identify best results and recreate the conditions throughout the farm to improve yields. This can be done through our dashboard where the micro climates are represented as heat maps where you can perform historical comparison of different growing conditions and their result on the growth and health of plants. You can set optimal ranges for each parameter and get notified on the dashboard when they go out of range so you can take focused actions to resolve the issue and prevent crop loss.
One of our customers effectively used the heat maps and historical graphs features to identify best positions for their new ventilation fans to achieve more homogeneous growing conditions throughout the facility and the plants in the previously lacking micro climates seem to love it. Now they are seeing consistent results throughout the facility.
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