How vertical farming becomes scalable through digital

"Too often artificial intelligence is seen as the new hammer"

After robotizing a vertical indoor farm, GROWx claims to be the first to have a workable business model. The arrival of the digital Plant Manager makes 'Farming-as-a-Service' a reality. And supermarkets are queuing up.

An investment in full automation has given the company a scalable indoor farm. In racks up to 27 cultivation levels high, IoT sensors, robotics, and artificial intelligence take care of the planting, growth, and harvesting of about fifty crops. In addition to being local and sustainable, the vegetables can also be controlled much more accurately in terms of taste. "We grow leafy vegetables such as various types of lettuce, radishes, and mustard leaves," says Van de Kreeke. "Although you could even grow a banana tree."

Since the company aims for as little human intervention and zero waste as possible, it is necessary to record data in as much detail as possible. "We almost immediately decided to take the life cycle of the plant as our starting point," says's Design Lead Sebastian Hølt Bak. "What conditions are required, and how can artificial intelligence create and continue to improve that environment? All the way down to the level of crops and seeds, this is mapped out and captured in a plant profile. Sensors and digital twin technology then take care of all the necessary optimizations via the software."

According to Hølt Bak, the scale of the collaboration also provided the challenge. "In many projects, artificial intelligence is seen as the new hammer," he notes. "After which it solves no real problem and dies a quiet death." To avoid falling into that same trap, it was essential to first map out all the processes surrounding the culture. Van de Kreeke describes planning as a similar brainteaser. "If I sow basil today, there must be room in ten days' time for it to grow in thirty degrees. With twenty thousand cultivation gutters and dozens of plant varieties, that is quite a puzzle."

GROWx claims to own the world's first fully robotic vertical farm that competes on price with vegetables from the land or from the greenhouse. "We have successfully brought together botany and robotics." No less important, the CEO believes, is the business model that the collaboration has produced. "The plant profiles and the control based on data make us distinctive. Now that the investment, personnel costs and energy consumption are no longer a bottleneck, we have finally increased the economic feasibility of vertical farming."

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