"I don't understand anyone who is farming without software these days, as it's really becoming impossible to reach a specific stage. As a small-scale farm up to 1000m2, you're fine. However, as you're scaling operations, with multiple people working on the production floor working with machinery and equipment, automation is needed without a doubt. As most of the information is gathered from sensors, cameras, etc, how can you otherwise translate the data into readable content?" says Mante Šidlauskaitė, CEO and co-founder of Cogastro, a Lithuanian farm management software provider for insect breeders.
Based in the country's capital, Cogastro is operating from Vilnius, Lithuania. Their systems can be deployed for breeding Black soldier flies, Mealworms, and Crickets installations. Multiple modules are included allowing it to be easily adapted and customized to any size of operation.
The reasoning behind Mante's belief is that the team has seen multiple entering mistakes made by human laborers which results in false observations and predictions. When gathering data, as Mante explains, you cannot afford to make any mistakes. In the long term, manual data gathering because highly inefficient as it is overly time-consuming.
To indicate that insect vertical farming is not so far different from vertical farming, after all, we have put together the most striking similarities.
A pleasant living ambiance
In terms of housing the insects, the right temperature-, humidity-, and lighting levels are of high importance in order for the creature to 'feel at home.' Just like plants, different lighting ratio is applied to each life cycle. Whereas the mating stage can be compared to a plant's most important life cycle, the vegetative stage. "We've seen better reproduction rates when adopting specific light intensity and spectra to Black Soldier Flies."
As Mante explains, depending on the species, sound and motion are very important in insect farming, as you can exactly tell what they're doing based on those. For instance, when crickets are mating, they assemble certain noises that give away their state of mind. So for all growers, if you don't hear your plants 'screaming,' that's a good sign. According to recent research by Itzhak Khait et al. (2023), plants emit sounds when they're under stress. All jokes aside, it is seen that these ambient requirements are rather parallel to growing edible crops.
The software interface
Most insect farms Cogastro operates with are at scale to be as efficient as possible, as seen in CEA. "For us, it's all about putting all moving dots together and knowing which variables are affecting growth."
By integrating all data points into its software, the team is able to communicate with the overall data set of the facility. From there on, they'll further develop the business intelligence based on a customer's request. In the future, Cogastro wants to add distribution tools to its software where information from multiple farms can be exchanged from any geography.
Deploying algorithms to optimize processes
Developing algorithms will help to improve all the complexity behind farming. Especially things like whether the diet has been sufficient, the feeding time, the feed content, and capturing correlations alongside it. These correlations will help us to create more algorithms and predict outcomes more accurately.
Having correlations will help us translate precisely what variable was making more impact than the rest to get a certain outcome, e.g., Through algorithms, we can adopt those even more and optimize the entire process.
From egg to insect
Mostly, Cogastro supplies its software to existing infrastructures of machinery and equipment. Yet, these often come along with a lot of scattered information sources, which is not an uncommon scenario for vertical farms. "All of these data points are providing important information about the farm processes within the facility. The data is so critical as a producer wants to know what happened from egg to insect, how much input it required to get to the final mass number, and how to become more efficient."
It's not just about the final yield but also about the costs of the insects. How many insects have grown, and what is the cost of the end product? According to Mante, there are so many different techniques for reading data. That's exactly what Cogastro helps to ease out; capturing, reading, and connecting that data for operators.
Photo 12028827 © Denis Tabler | Dreamstime.com
As multiple indoor farmers have been adopting tray handling, it's also a very well–known practice in insect farming, moving badges from one growth stage to the other. Using software allows operators to adopt actions to badges and change their performance of them at any time.
Box handling, though, is mostly automation. "For us, it's not about moving boxes around, but it's all about what's happening during and behind the handling to get to the final outcome. All these movements will provide insights into what effect that has on the final production."
Key interest countries
With the US, the EU, and Africa as their core market, Cogastro also has seen interest from Asian companies, specifically Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.
"We first had to gain trust in the industry, and once we did, we got to work with key market players."
For more information:
Mante Sidlauskaite, CEO
Pusyno g. 14, Pasekscių k.,
LT-33344 Moletu r., Lithuania