"We make some pretty hefty claims with the Photosynthetic R&D lab for plant science, and here are the reasons why. We can reduce the cost of manual labor, increase the speed of R&D, increase yield, and reduce production waste," says Øyvind Hasund Dahl, Chief Revenue Officer at Photosynthetic, a subsidiary of Rift Labs, a Norwegian agtech.
Øyvind Hasund Dahl and Halvard Aagaard pictured at the Indoor AgCon 2023
Photosynthetic enables vertical and indoor farming installations to analyze, identify and optimize growth to achieve profitability and higher yield while simultaneously saving energy and manual labor. Their recently added R&D Lab allows growers to research multiple farm processes on-site. This means that farms are less dependent on other parties to research the potential of their systems and plants.
The Photosynthetic R&D lab for plant science
An affordable approach
Photosynthetic's Reasearch-as-a-Service enables anyone to have access to a high-end R&D facility featuring industry-leading lighting control capabilities, at a fraction of the cost of other solutions on the market, without any need for upfront investments, with pricing starting from $2,000 per month.
The company's software is cloud-based and can be integrated into an existing R&D- or production facility to work synergistically together instead of competing against each other. Photosynthetic serves as a community builder and collaborates with all stakeholders in the CEA industry, including growers, universities, research institutions, and other R&D outsourcing providers.
Enabling optimization of energy consumption through monitoring and analysis of growth parameters, the device automatically delivers the respective energy requirements.
How it works
The Photosynthetic R&D lab is specialized to improve the production processes in vertical farms in general. However, as mentioned above, they can be split into four different elements.
Firstly, the reduced cost of manual labor: as the lab automates much of the R&D process itself. It is self-regulating. Data is collected, analyzed, and visualized automatically, with AI and machine learning to automate further.
Besides that, it increases the speed of R&D. This is done through an increased rate of innovation, i.e., improved products, improved processes, and increased competitiveness.
On top of that, Increased yield and reduced waste in production: The lab enables insights into production processes and the effect of different input factors on product characteristics, which may be used to optimize the setup in production and reduce waste. Notably without impacting ongoing production. Some examples would be to iteratively run tests on a specific type of seed in two different environments to, for instance, optimize germination rate, reduce total growth cycle time, or select a trait.
And last but not least, growers will be able to introduce more product variety and technology selection. The lab enables direct A/B comparison between suppliers or between product lines, for example, two different varieties of seeds for a specific type of basil.
Multiple research options
"With data, you can base your scaling process, growth, and predictions on more than just a green thumb. We use sensors, cameras, and other technologies to measure different characteristics and correlate inputs and outputs to select for a specific trait," Oyvind notes.
Certainly including but not limited to; the type of plant, location, weight, germination rate, growth rate, color, shape, size of leaf or leaves, number of leaves, photosynthetic activity, photosynthetic efficiency, percentage of defects (i.e., sickness, tip-burn, etc.)
When it comes to automatic updates on the platform, Oyivnd explains that access to recipes is part of the platform. Recipes are optimized and upgraded on an ongoing basis.
"You also have access to a highly experienced in-house team of scientists and engineers with extensive know-how in plant science. We enable optimization of all growth parameters, although our patented method for controlling lighting up to 16+ channels is where we really stand out," he adds.
Research as a Service
Typically, Photosynthetic has sold, rented, or leased out these lab units, where the customer sets up and conducts experiments aiming to improve yield, reduce waste, test new products, etc.
"However, recently we've launched "Research-as-a-Service," where essentially the lab is located in our own facility and operated by us, where we do all the work on behalf of the client," Oyvind explains.
Once a client specifies a project (i.e., type of experiment, desired outcome, limitations, timeframe, specific types of seeds or consumables to be used, etc.), a time is scheduled on an available unit, whereas afterward, materials required will be sourced.
Then, the experiment will be run from start to finish, such as all physical operations, maintenance, etc. This means that the client does not have to invest in space, equipment, or research personnel but is still able to run experiments with full access to results through Photosynthetic's cloud-based platform, where they can monitor the experiment, analyze data, and produce valuable insights.