What challenges does agriculture face today? Some of the hazards can come from natural sources, like floods and droughts, while others can arise from economic factors such as rising prices of fertilizers, agricultural machinery and plant protection products. In response to these events, We have developed cultivation recipes which are in many ways a “recipe for success” when growing plants in a vertical farm.
The cultivation recipe is developed in order to select the best conditions for plant growth and maximize the quality of the product. It is controlled by Grow Wizard – proprietary cultivation management software for Automated Indoor Farming. It enables remote communication with the automation system at the place of cultivation and works on every production stage: from planting the seeds to harvesting the crop.
The key aspect to successful cultivation is the selection of appropriate, high-quality seeds, which are seeded in a system called “Propagation Chamber”. In this part of the system, seedlings get very high (about 100%) humidity and temperature. Such conditions, together with absolute darkness, make it possible to accelerate germination.
After the initial germination process, which takes place in the Propagation Chamber, the seedling trays are transferred to the Nursery system. This is where they will spend the next weeks until they reach a height and weight that allows them to be transferred to the main system. Nursery can take place in two forms:
* in growing cabinets
* in specially separated rooms (for larger crops)
The germination process in Nursery is supported by automation that assigns and maintains the values from the cultivation recipe.
This is the most important and often the longest stage of cultivation. When the seedlings reach their maturity, they are transplanted to a new space when they can continue their growth. Depending on the system, these can be cultivation carts with vertical columns or horizontally positioned NFT trough.
Smart Crop is a technology that enables automated cultivation of plants in controlled environment agriculture (CEA). Imposing and maintaining the conditions that are developed within the “cultivation recipe” is the main task of the Grow Wizard software.
The Grow Wizard application is helpful in managing, planning and evaluating the crop. You can control a number of cultivation parameters related to the atmosphere and water. A few of them are listed in the table below.
One of the main challenges when cultivating crops in a hydroponic system is creating universal growth environment. Plants are arranged vertically or horizontally, which requires constant monitoring during all growth stages. By controlling the following factors, we create an ideal environment for them to grow:
* Air Flow – provided and maintained by fans. Maintaining relative air humidity makes the plant absorb the amount of water and nutrients it needs. There is also proper transpiration, i.e. the plant gives water to the atmosphere from its above-ground parts.
* Levels of CO2 – carbon dioxide is essential for plants to live. Small changes in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere can significantly affect the rate of photosynthesis.
* Lighting – LED lamps are used to provide the best lighting conditions. Compared to HPS or MH lamps, they don’t emit as much heat and can therefore be placed in tight spaces.
Hydroponics cannot exist without water. How do we test and check its properties? We focus on the key parameters affecting the proper growth of the plant, and one of the major ones is the degree of salinity.
The water used for vertical cultivation has a very low salinity (EC). Before cultivation, ion exchange water filters soften water but don’t actually filter it. After that, it flows into the main tank.
During cultivation, filters are also needed to clean the water of peat and other larger impurities. Disc filters prevent clogging of the hydraulic system, including drippers responsible for dosing a right amount of water per column. For this purpose, we do not use biofilm filters. Mesh filters are used for this, which filter out even the smallest impurities.
UV lamps, otherwise known as flow lamps, are also placed on the production line. They are used to clean the entire system. It is thanks to them that water doesn’t bloom during vertical farming.
Constant supervision over the cultivation recipe and the possibility of its modification gives a sense of security. From the application level, the user has constant control over events, i.e. all events that happen on the crop, including:
1) Transplanting plants
2) Changing the harvest date
3) Planting harvest
The software allows to locate, much earlier than in traditional agriculture, the source of possible problems in the cultivation. The Grow Wizard has an early response system that alerts you to deviations in the cultivation recipe. System users may receive two types of messages:
* An event that occurs outside the range set out in the cultivation recipe, e.g. an increase in temperature that is within the limits of the established standard
* Alert that requires immediate response
Our R&D center independently develops cultivation regulations. The amount of fertilizer we use is 65% lower compared to traditional farming. What’s more, 100m2 of vertical farming can provide as much food as 3000m2 of traditional farming while using 95% less water. The crop grows 2-5 times faster than in traditional conditions. Growers track every step of the growing process and can do so more precisely with the Grow Wizard software.
The cultivation recipe is a key element in vertical farming. It has an impact on the course of cultivation and its success. Thanks to experience and many years of research on recipes, growers recommend the best conditions for plant development in controlled environment. The Grow Wizard software ensures that these conditions are maintained. It informs users about the current situation on the farm and alerts them in case of an emergency.