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How can modeling help to grow a better indoor farm lettuce crop?

OptimIA researchers are using crop modeling to identify the most favorable environmental parameters for the growth and yield of indoor farm lettuce crops and how to prevent tipburn. One of the research objectives of the OptimIA project, which is being funded by USDA to the tune of $2.4 million, is to study the aerial environment for producing indoor leafy greens. The aerial environment refers to air circulation, humidity, carbon dioxide concentration, light intensity, and temperature. Prior to preparing the project proposal, members of the OptimIA team surveyed stakeholders of the indoor farm industry to identify the challenges and needs of the industry.

“There was a lot of feedback related to environmental parameters, especially airflow,” said Murat Kacira, an OptimIA team member who is director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center and professor in the Biosystems Engineering Department at the University of Arizona. “The indoor farm industry had a real need for optimizing the environmental variables related to light, temperature, humidity management, and control. Leafy greens growers wanted to be able to understand plant growth, quantify the plant response, yield, as well as the quality attributes under various environmental conditions.”

Crop modeling predictions, potential
Kacira explains crop modeling is simply crop growth and yield prediction.

“Given setpoints for air temperature, photosynthetic active radiation, humidity, and carbon dioxide enrichment, we were able to model crop growth and predict the kilograms or grams of lettuce yield on an hourly or daily basis and also at the end of the production cycle,” he said.


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