Bringing the Farm to the Future
When you picture farming tools what do you see? For most people, they think of big green tractors, scarecrows, and pitchforks. While these items still have their place on a lot of farms, today’s greenhouse farms rely on more complex digital tools each day using computers and cell phones.
Our Growers require these technical tools because the amount of information they process daily is immense. To be a successful Grower requires making critical decisions based off many factors including elements of engineering, mathematics, chemistry, biology, and history.
When wearing so many hats, it makes life a lot easier to have a digital companion who can store all this information and help to make sense of it. That’s where Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes into play!
Let’s take a look at how AI is already transforming how we grow at Nature Fresh Farms.
What is AI
AI is a fancy way of describing powerful computers that help humans make decisions, and in more advanced cases, make decisions for us! These computers make our lives easier by finding trends in data in real time that let us know how to make our processes better and learn from our past challenges.
AI is an amazing example of what makes our industry so dynamic, we are constantly seeking new technologies to help us work smarter. The information they sift through and make sense of in a second would take countless hours of human effort to achieve the same result.
Luckily, our friends and partners in greenhouse technology and automation are there every step of the way to help us meet those needs.
How We Use Smart Systems
AI is becoming a major part of every industry. From the cars we drive to the phones in our pockets, this technology gives us the tools to tackle the challenges of tomorrow with the data gathered today.
Over the next few years, we will see the greenhouse farming industry become even more automated, in many of the day-to-day functions while creating new tech jobs!
Through AI, we can pass data on from generation to generation at the click of a button, rather than using word of mouth or paper storage. With all this information available at our fingertips we can cater to the specific needs of each individual plant to grow more sustainably and treat our plants right.
AI In the Greenhouse
The advancements made in climate control technology over the last 20 years is comparable to the difference between a rotary phone and a smart phone. Two decades ago, our greenhouses were set like the thermostat in your house, where the environmental conditions were the same throughout the entire greenhouse regardless of the individual needs of each plant.
In 2021, our computerized system PRIVA provides our greenhouse operators with a much greater ability to fine-tune environmental control by collecting data on environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, sunlight, radiation, and strength of light. Using this information, PRIVA automatically adjusts vents, curtains, and pipe temperatures to produce the best crop results.
Through the continual back and forth of information between human and machine, AI has made greenhouse growing a more tailored process, allowing our Growers to come up with specialized plans for our crops based on environmental factors.
Although PRIVA often acts on its own, sometimes manual changes need to be made. Our team is monitoring environmental factors in every zone of our greenhouses using down-to-the-minute graphs prepared by PRIVA.
Irrigation & Water Reuse
PRIVA’s climate control technology has also drastically changed how and when we give our crops water. Because the plants are grown in optimal conditions, they do not have to work as hard, meaning they consume less water.
Using PRIVA’s scale feature, we can tell if a plant has been over or under fed based on its weight. Every time a plant receives a “shot” of water and nutrients, our system reports back how heavy the plant is. The plant is further monitored to see what the increase in weight is on the scale and how quickly the weight decreases to get a clear picture of its overall health.
Knowing these fine details, you can start irrigation at the right moment and with the exact amount of water and nutrients allowing us to grow more sustainably and effectively.
To ensure even less waste, our irrigation pipes operate on a 100% closed-loop water system meaning the water used to irrigate our plants is collected, fertilized, cleaned, and recirculated back into the system.
Packaging and distribution are some of the liveliest areas at our facility, buzzing with people, machines, and most importantly fresh veggies. Here, the future feels very present on the farm beginning with the self-driving cart powered by PowerBee that brings the produce from the greenhouse to the packaging line.
Once on the line, this giant metal river flowing with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Cucumbers feeds colorful produce directly into our packaging.
The TAKS system used within our packing facilities is important to maintaining the quality of our produce because it ensures that, once the fruit is packed into the crate, it is not handled again through to shipping.
Once in the boxes, our produce is sent further down the river on a conveyor to be palletized, strapped, and shipped.
Looking to The Future of Growing
As the Information Age has taught us, the solution to meeting the needs of our changing world starts with having the best information available instantly.
In the past 20 years alone, advanced solutions have arisen to meet some of the common challenges faced in our industry. With Artificial Intelligence still in its infancy, these advancements are just a preview for what is to come in the decades ahead.
We look forward to remaining on the cutting edge and seeing firsthand how this technology transforms how we grow together!