What are the Applications of AI in Vertical Farming?
Steve Maxwell, Vancouver B.C
Vertical farming has become a huge market in Europe and around the world. Currently it’s valued at €0.73 billion in Europe and $2.90 billion worldwide. It’s expected to grow to over $11.7 billion in 2027. The potential for vertical farming to become a sustainable operation to feed the world is tremendous. Not only that, but it has various environmental benefits include carbon emission reduction and pesticide independence.
However, right now, there is a long way to go. Agriculture is a $5 trillion industry worldwide. A lot of vertical farms need to go up before the dream of sustainable vertical farming is realized.
In general, vertical farming is used in the absence of high soil yield or under unused conditions. Hence, several vertical farms and greenhouses are often designed as closed spaces for better light provision. However, with vertical farms, the provision of artificial light has led to an equal, if not better result. Positive impacts on the future of food safety and human health have been forecast. Not to mention, the reduced land use means less deforestation and destruction of wildlife.
However, all of this is being done more efficiently in tandem with AI. In fact, AI applications in Vertical Farming can radically improve the yields of vertical farming, making it far more sustainable and profitable.
Vertical Farming environment
There are already great examples of AI being used in vertical farming in tandem with the developing field of IoT. Certain AI technologies are being used to produce greenhouses, parks and even gardens which can be controlled simultaneously. These systems enable the control of variables like temperature, pH, CO2 and humidity. The system runs on various algorithms that calculate the optimal need for either variable and can adjust them automatically.
Due to the application of AI to control variables, plant growth can both be controlled and accelerated in any environment. Factors like the ambient temperature, light density, humidity, and pH can be controlled to produce optimal conditions for growth. The best part is, these conditions can be made possible in virtually every space.
Certain companies are doing this inside literal shipping containers. A company in Malaysia is able to do this inside a shipping container and grow 50,000 kg of vegetables every year. However, the AI systems don’t just detect normal variables like humidity and temperature, they monitor other knowns too. Two examples are leaf discolorations and nitrate composition. The latter is extremely important for plant growth and the former is indicative of plant health.
With the introduction of 5G all over the world, this process will become even more self-policing. 5G will enable greater data transfer speeds, and a greater number of connections per unit area, allowing greater data sharing.
High Yield is one of the most obvious applications of AI in Vertical Farming. It doesn’t just appeal to the businesspersons around the world, but it’s also an incentive to invest and encourage this activity.
Through the use of AI, vertical farming can produce much more produce, per unit area, than common farms. Not only through AI, but through the sheer conservation of space allowed by vertical farming, it’s much more efficient. One project claims to produce nearly 400 times more food per acre than a flat farm. Another claims to pack 40 plants in the space traditionally occupied by 1 and to use 1% as much water for growth.
Yields like these will favor a burgeoning market. This will allow farmers to meet the ever growing needs of the world’s population at a fraction of the cost. Not to mention the environmental advantages of conserving land. Robots have also become part of the equation, automating services like irrigation and climate control.
Complementing Consumer Preferences
Since consumption patterns keep changing every so often, vertical farming is extremely apt to adapt to them. Even though the world is becoming more health conscious, people are still looking for that combination of taste and health. Applications of AI in Vertical Farming can help unite these two seemingly conflicting needs.
Food safety is also an issue. With more people aware of the harmful effects of pesticides, vertical farming provides a solution. Since vertical farming areas are controlled environments, they can eliminate the need for pesticides by keeping out bugs and bacteria. That way, all natural plants can come from the farm to the table without any added chemicals. With less chemicals entering the human ecosystem, vertical farms will serve up healthier options.
We’ve spoken sparsely of the environmental benefits that vertical farms can provide. However, they will do more than cut down costs and carbon emissions. Since vertical farms can provide climate controlled environments anywhere, they can reduce the distanced travelled for produce.
Worldwatch research shows that the average American meal travels 1500 to 2500 miles to get to your plate. Vertical farms can hugely diminish that distance. Furthermore, the longer that food is out of the soil, the more nutrients it loses. With less distance travels, more nutrients will get to the average consumer.
Sustainability is the Greatest Benefit of AI Applications in Vertical Farming
Robotics Used for Vertical Farming
Various firms around the world are providing automated services to grow vegetables and fruits and other plants around the world. Some are creating small urban farms with old shipping containers using LED lights. These lights use 100% renewable energy. The plants require 90% less water than those grown in the ground. Hence, through a huge reduction in the need for resources, vertical farming can save on both costs, and power.
Another example of sustainability with AI applications in Vertical Farming is in Helsinki. There, plug and play automated vertical farms are being used for stores, warehouses, homes, and restaurants. With a huge supply of fresh produce being dependent on sustainable processes, the reduction in waste and energy use can be huge.
Sustainable vertical farming with AI is no longer a dream, it’s a reality. In fact, it’s the one reality that makes sense, both economically, and environmentally.