Vertical farms using cloud networks to control lighting

16-04-2021    15:32   |    LEDs Magazine

Germany's Infarm is offering container-based 'growing centers' that collect information for constant improvement of systems and plant growth.

Plant and vegetable crops do like sunny days. But if one German horticultural technology and farming company has its way, future growing seasons could well be in for a lot more cloudy days — cloud computing, that is.

Berlin-based vertical farming outfit Infarm, already known for locating growing chambers onsite at supermarkets and restaurants, is now offering larger, container-sized units that it will set up at urban locations.

The idea is to place dozens of modules together to create what Infarm calls Growing Centers. Each module houses racks of herbs and vegetables growing under tuned LED lights with spectral settings optimized differently for produce variants. Infarm grows an assortment of greens and produce, including lettuces, basil, thyme, sage, mustard, pak choi, and many others.

But not all of the action will happen inside the containers.

Infarm is using cloud and networked computing not only to offer remote control of lighting and other systems, but also to analyze data collected by sensors in the containers in order to help growers constantly learn how to improve settings, especially when combined with findings from the many Infarm installations around the world. The aim is to continually improve growth and lower energy consumption.

Infarm describes it as “data-driven” and “a combination of big data, IoT, and cloud analytics.”

The approach is not new for Infarm, as it is already gathering data from supermarket installations. But the Growing Centers stand to greatly expand the bounty of products grown with Infarm agricultural technology (AgTech), and thus to thicken its data shake.

“The entire Infarm network is connected to a central farming brain that gathers more than 50,000 growth, color, and spectral data points through a plant’s lifetime,” said Infarm co-founder and chief technology officer Guy Galonska. “We've collected more than 300 billion data points throughout our farming network to date. These data enable us to perfect our growing recipes and improve yield, quality, and nutritional value, while reducing the production price constantly.”

The new Growing Center modules include automated cloud control and analysis of not just light but also CO2 levels, temperature, pH, and circulation of water from condensation.

Each module occupies a 25m2 (269 ft2) footprint and stands somewhere between 10n (about 33 ft) and 18m (59 ft) high. Infarm hopes to establish 100 Growing Centers by 2025. It said that 15 of those are planned for 2021 in London, Paris, Copenhagen, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, and Tokyo, with some already under construction. It takes about 6 weeks to build a module.

When LEDs Magazine wrote about Infarm last July, the company was raising C-round financing. In September, it landed a $170 million infusion led by LGT Lightrock (then called LGT Lightstone), an investment company owned by Lichtenstein's monarchy, with the round still open.

A partial list of customers includes Safeway, Sobeys, Thrifty Foods, Whole Foods Markets, Marks & Spencer, Kroger, Kinokuniya, Aldi, Amazon, Auchan, Casino, E.Leclerc, Edeka, Intermarché, Irma, Kaufland, Metro, Migros, Selgros, and Summit stores.

Photo: Infarm's slogan could be “send in the cloud.” Its chambers and containers grow all sorts of things like green mint (that's a generic picture above, not one of Infarm's), with lighting and other systems connected to a cloud network for control and data analytics. (Photo credit: Image by pixel2013 via Pixabay; used under free license for commercial or non-commercial purposes.)


Source: LEDs Magazine

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