As global food demand escalates, vertical farming becomes a vital part of the future of agriculture. They use robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to automate agriculture and perfect the cultivation of vegetables and vegetables. With steady growth, the vertical farming market was valued at an estimated $ 4.4 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $ 15.7 billion by 2025.
Fifth Season, a vertical farm in Pittsburgh with $ 35 million in funding, uses super-stack software and robotics to power their fully automated farming systems. And by combining big data and AI, they have developed the optimal growth recipe that determines the best taste for the plants they are growing.
“The role of AI in determining taste is to use big data and AI to make sure you get the flavor you want – sweetness, spice, bitterness, overall taste and texture,” said Austin Webb, CEO of Fifth Season.
“Our plant’s individual growth recipe is the unique mix of the different LED lights,” said Webb. “The plants go through the grow room with a QR code that communicates the route of that plant and tells the automated system where each plant needs to be during the entire process.”
Webb says their super-stack system, which serves as “the brain” of the vertical farm maps, maps each plant’s route through the grow room based on their grow recipe, and then moves the plants to where they need to go.
“We’re using AI and data to find improvements in all aspects of plant quality, even beyond what people think they know about taste profiles. We call this proactive, deterministic growing versus traditional farming, including greenhouse growing where you have to be reactive. “Weather and sunlight conditions,” said Webb. “We then use feedback from people / chefs on what tastes best and what texture is best and [..] Combine this qualitative data with the 26,000 quantitative data points for each green shell per life cycle. “
“From then on, we optimize our cultivation recipes in order to achieve the best taste. For some vegetables such as tomatoes, experts have used Brix values, however [..] We measure taste quality based on these factors: sweetness, sharpness, bitterness, overall taste, texture and color, ”says Webb. “People don’t have to guess which iron content or Brix value is best; the brain on our farms can do it. People tell the grain what tastes best, and the brain calculates and optimizes the cultivation recipes from there. “
Darryn Keiller, CEO and founder of WayBeyond, says that in order to affect taste, one has to change either the genetics of the plant or the existing biochemical profile.
“Breeders can, for example, influence the taste by adjusting light and nutrients, which can then improve the texture (crunchiness, thickness) or the taste (increased sweetness or bitterness),” said Keiller. “Once you’ve identified the key characteristics of a crop, use machine learning, or AI, to automate and optimize the production process for consistent growth and to respond to changing consumer preferences.”
“Currently, vertical farms are using seeds that have been bred for outdoor growing. With AI technology, they can better develop their breeding stock (or lines) for indoor environments. It’s about refining your research and development and genetics too design that is perfect for your environment and management practices, while ensuring continuous improvement in commercial production. The potential is huge. “
Webb adds that many indoor growers have tried to build an outdoor farming system that can thrive indoors; However, Fifth Season chose to apply the principles of smart manufacturing to agriculture, which would allow them to grow food in new ways.
“We grow more than 15,000 pounds of fresh food a week using 90% less water than it would take to grow that amount of fresh food on a traditional free-range farm – in just 25,000 square feet,” added Webb.
Webb believes that scaling viable vertical farms that can crack codes in both technology and consumer experience to consistently deliver fresh, nutritious, and clean products is transforming consumer purchasing significantly.
“It changes our entire definition of how fresh food can and should taste; it is changing the ease of access, availability and convenience of fresh food that brings so much value to consumers, ”said Webb. “It’s another way for shoppers to get the freshest, highest quality food available in retail, whose products have a much longer shelf life than we’re used to.”