The global population is increasing rapidly, together with the demand for healthy fresh food. The greenhouse industry can play an important role, but encounters difficulties finding skilled staff to manage crop production. Artificial intelligence (AI) has reached breakthroughs in several areas, however, not yet in horticulture. An international competition on “autonomous greenhouses” aimed to combine horticultural expertise with AI to make breakthroughs in fresh food production with fewer resources.
Five international teams, consisting of scientists, professionals, and students with different backgrounds in horticulture and AI, participated in a greenhouse growing experiment. Each team had a 96 m2 modern greenhouse compartment to grow a cucumber crop remotely during a 4-month-period.
Each compartment was equipped with standard actuators (heating, ventilation, screening, lighting, fogging, CO2 supply, water and nutrient supply). Control setpoints were remotely determined by teams using their own AI algorithms. Actuators were operated by a process computer. Different sensors continuously collected measurements. Setpoints and measurements were exchanged via a digital interface.
Achievements in AI-controlled compartments were compared with a manually operated reference. Detailed results on cucumber yield, resource use, and net profit obtained by teams are explained in this paper. We can conclude that in general AI performed well in controlling a greenhouse. One team outperformed the manually-grown reference.
Greenhouse experimental compartments, 96 m2 ground floor (76.8 m2 crop-growing area) equipped with different actuators. (a) Scheme of compartment with crop and actuators: roof ventilation, two screens, artificial light, irrigation system, CO2 supply, two heating systems. (b) Picture of one compartment with the young crop after the transplant.
Scheme of data exchange from the teams and their AI algorithm via a digital interface (REST API) towards the process computer and the greenhouse actuators and data from sensors via the same way back, data exchange between teams and workers on crop handling, and measured crop parameters.
Credits: Silke Hemming, Feije de Zwart, Anne Elings, Isabella Righini and Anna Petropoulou
Source: This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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