Chris Higgins, GM of Hort Americas and founder of Urban Ag News, has been involved with the CEA and commercial horticulture industry for 25 years. Automation and CEA in the industry have historically always been around through the use of artificial lighting and glasshouses. However, recently the level of technology investment and the range of automation tools available has vastly increased.
One of the biggest industry challenges that Chris is seeing today, is that whilst there are a number of state-of-the-art automation products available, they are not all suitable to work with existing greenhouse infrastructures and the various brands are not necessarily compatible with each other.
Automation definitely can be beneficial in managing labor costs, resources and improving crop yield. However, greenhouse’s automation technology is only as good as its operator. Chris’s advice to start-up CEA growers is to not invest too much too soon but instead focus on improving the site’s systems to handle fluctuations and extremes.
When the right time comes to invest in automation, the grower needs to know the purpose behind their investment. Understanding your purpose will lead to investing in the right equipment. For a successful CEA grower, Chris believes the grower needs to be knowledgeable in their site data. In understanding the data, problems can be instantly addressed and better investment decisions can be made on selecting solutions to meet their unique business or growing needs.
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