While data is important for greenhouse growers, for vertical growers it’s vital as leveraging it offers the opportunity for a higher level of response and control of growing outcomes.
“The thing that we advise customers on more than anything is how to interpret their data. At Autogrow, we have an extensive team behind us that understands growing data and part of our role is to continually support and coach our customers on this so they can make the best decisions on what actions to take,” says Kayla Waldorff, Business development manager at Autogrow.
Better understanding growth cycles
“Folium, Autogrow’s smart sensor network enables growers to understand their crop at both climate and plant level. Used as a supplement to climate controllers, the Folium units gather six climate readings and additionally collate plant temperature and substrate moisture readings for a comprehensive view. This allows growers to better understand what their plants experience throughout the entire growth cycle,” explains Kayla.
“Deploying Folium in a vertical farm means improved and consistent results across the entire space, whatever height you’re growing at,” she adds. Control systems often only have one or two sensors so growers may take additional readings with handheld sensors to compensate for this.
“Unfortunately, handheld readings can’t really be relied upon to drive decision making as they only provide information from one moment in time. To be truly empowered to make the best decisions, growers need to be able to view hourly, daily, monthly and yearly cycle data, to spot trends and to compare historic data” Kayla asserts.
Using data to your advantage
According to Kayla, dialing in each of the unique growing variables in a farm creates the optimal environment for plant growth and the chance to grow the absolute best possible product. But the solution to one problem may be the catalyst for another. “Understanding each of the different components is important but more important than that is how they relate to each other – growers need to better understand how everything is related.”
In a vertical farm, should you discover your harvest is 24% down on the previous year, you can trace potential causes by having reliable data. “By using Folium, growers are able to look at their harvest from a historic perspective and gain insight into what might have caused the issues. Then they know how to resolve them to improve harvest for next time.
There are many different vertical farming systems out there but what we found is that growers who move crops throughout their facility don’t have accurate data on their climate,” says Kayla. “The benefit of Folium is that it is portable and wireless and can move with the crop to provide a better understanding of micro-climates in the entire growing space.”
Know for sure what you think you know
Conversations with vertical growers showed that many farms have about 30cm between racks, says Kayla. But after applying the channels, trays, the crop, and lights, space becomes crammed and that affects the airflow. “Growers need to know what is going with the many different components that contribute to plant growth. Without tangible data and hard numbers, growers are just guessing,” Kayla states.
Yield is what is ultimately important, consistently growing the best product at the size you need. Folium enables growers to make the intangible, tangible by providing a richer picture of the growing environment and the crop itself. If growers are able to dial in how to manage their climate, based on the microclimate data, that could provide significant increases in yield and resource management.
Kayla Waldorff, Business development manager