“Hyper-controlled environment agriculture aims to provide and maintain optimal growing conditions throughout the development of different crop varieties simultaneously. This gives a measure of control over many uncertainties that cannot be controlled in regular controlled environment agriculture,” said Vincent Paradis, Business Development Director at HRVST Limited, during the CEA 4.0 conference, whilst discussing the benefits of hyper-control.
HRVST Limited, a Canadian agtech,provides hyper-controlled production systems whose technology can accommodate a variety of plants, including plants that are a bit more difficult to grow in traditional farming methods. If wanted customers can try out their desired plants in HRVST's training and validation center.
The in-house developed control system allows growers to precisely control, fine-tune and automate growing conditions, such as light, irrigation, temperatures, humidity etc. row by row. All according to each crop’s unique needs and create repeatable patterns through proven growing recipes.
According to Vince, the benefits of having hyper-control can be split into five elements. The first one is that it gives growers a consistent and reproducible process. As well as, the ability to produce consistent and uniform high-quality products maximizing the concentration of cultural attributes. Besides that, farmers are able to create a wide variety of strains at the same time. This makes CEA farming very reliable as it minimizes crop loss through farm (contamination) management systems. Eventually, it provides a lot of efficiency in providing the plant with what it needs when it needs it.
Allowing for flexibility
One of the main advantages remains the diversification of crops within the same growing structure. To independently process several crops simultaneously benefits both the growers and the consumers. “By cultivating more than one type of crop simultaneously, growers don’t put all their eggs in one basket and can reduce economic uncertainty. Indeed, as consumers’ demand fluctuates and changes, diversification ensures stability for growers while allowing them to adapt quickly to the demand. It also gives farmers flexibility and lets them take advantage of niche markets in their region,” Vince explains.
It additionally enables farmers to gain access to national and international markets with new products and increases the income of small growers. Diversification of crops also indirectly benefits the consumers as growers can provide a complete food basket, helping balance and fulfill food demand. As Vince puts it, as well as growing surplus products for sale at the market, facilitating both food and nutritional security. “It basically grants the decentralization of food supply, making it possible to offer total food self-sufficiency in importation-dependent regions.”
Moreover, hypercontrolled environments enable increased control over crops’ protection. Such systems reduce the potential for environmental contamination and the risk of foreign bodies such as insects and particles of soil, as well as exposure to microbiological risk. “The structure prevents contamination from one row to another. Pesticide use is drastically reduced as the crops are protected from pests and disease. It thus allows more economical use of substances involved in crop production, including water and fertilizer.”