“We offer a completely integrated product and take all of the guesswork out, whether it relates to chillers, controls, air handling units, adjustable nozzles, etc.,” says Emil Breza, co-founder, president and CEO of AgricUltra Advancements.
AgricUltra is a Canadian company that designs and develops turnkey, multi-layer grow platforms that are engineered to optimize inter-canopy control and management. The company also conducts research and development related to UV lighting.
AgricUltra Advancements was officially incorporated in August 2018 and specializes in four keys areas: controlled environment agriculture, computational fluid dynamics analysis (CFD), systems design & engineering and photobiology. While the company designed its systems for medical cannabis production, AgricUltra believes that its system can be applied to any vertical farm and will be trialing berry production at its new research center and unit.
Decisions rooted in CFD analysis
As Emil explains, computational fluid dynamics modeling allows the company to accurately model airflow in an existing or proposed grow room. AgricUltra can visualize how heat, humidity and temperature interact to create humidity pockets, temperature stratifications or impeded airflow.
“At AgricUltra, we create a very accurate representation of the physical environment (from room level to canopy level) as well as the environmental setpoints (Temp, RH, CFM, heat inputs, etc) and let the software compute the complex interactions that result. Then we can identify problem areas and come up with viable solutions. That’s the power of CFD analysis. It helps you find mistakes that you can’t otherwise see,” says Emil.
Optimizing airflow and environmental control is the key to maximizing yield and producing consistent crops. It helps reduces stressors on the plants which makes them more resistant to pathogens, increases CO2 conversion and photon utilization among other things. With AgricUltra’s AMPL™ grow platform, growers can also treat each layer of their vertical growing operation as an independent zone with its own setpoint control. Growers could thus have plants with the same genetics at different crop stages all in the same room but controlled individually.
Energy savings by heat recovery
With its strong understanding of the dynamics and interactions of heat, temperature and humidity, AgricUltra is focused on energy, be it conservation or recovery throughout the grow room. Rather than conditioning the air outside of the grow room and then having to duct the air back in then distribute via auxiliary fans, AgricUltra’s AMPL grow platform utilizes individual MicroCoils at the front of each row and layer. The MicroCoils are responsible for cooling, removing moisture and setting canopy temperature and humidity levels via hydronic coils that have Cold and Hot water circulating through them. As a result, the canopy air is locally treated at the layer level and has faster response times and less deviation from the setpoint. But more importantly, it allows for energy harvesting. The AMPL platform can harvest the waste heat of the lights and use this waste heat to actually reduce the size of the HVAC system. Which reduces both the facility CapEx and OpEx costs.
Let’s say you're trying to achieve a low relative humidity (RH) level, typically you’d need to overcool the air to drop enough moisture to reach your target RH, but you can’t apply cold air to the plants. The air needs to be brought back up to setpoint temperature. This heat requires a source, electric coils or from the chiller supplying the cold water but with AMPL’s heat harvesting ability a good portion of the heat comes from the lights that are supplying PAR. Essentially you get to use the energy supplied to the lights twice,” Emil explains.
Partnering for innovation and success
AgricUltra Advancements is a proud member of The Association for Vertical Farming (AVF) and the International Association for Plant UV Research, UV4Plants. AgricUltra has also partnered with[YB2] been selected by Ryerson University, which is developing a state-of-the-art urban agriculture center, as the grow platform and LED lighting provider. The center will conduct research on food and medical cannabis. The Cannabis Research Laboratory will focus on minimizing the environmental footprint of cannabis by increasing resource use efficiency and reducing waste. And according to Emil, AgricUltra’s technology will be at the heart of this research laboratory.
“AgricUltra’s AMPL™ grow platform and HyperRail™ lights (All-in-One, UVB+A, Visible and Deep Red LED lighting instrument) will be the centerpiece of the lab, providing independent precision-controlled temperature, humidity and lighting for up to nine separate conditions,” says Emil.
According to the company, AgricUltra AMPL™ was recently selected as the vertical grow platform for a new Canadian EU-GMP operator.