The Amazing Chemistry Between AI and Vertical Farming
When we talk about indoor farming in the future, one might immediately go to the potato farm that Mark Watney uses his own poo to maintain on Mars.
Growing food on another planet should be just one of the many scenarios that people look to for sustaining inter-planet migrants. A Moon farm or a Mars farm still exists in our imagination, but indoor farming is projected to be one of the many strategic needs in the international community.
Frist of all, the world population is expanding and is expected to exceed 10 billion in 2050. This number was 2 billion 100 years ago. How do we feed the whole world with such a big population? How do we solve the conflict between arable land and the booming population? How do places like Singapore and Middle Eastern countries become food supply independent?
Second, humanity has been over exploiting the natural world so that we're losing 23 hectares of arable land worldwide to drought and desertification every minute according to unenvironment.org.
Third, what should we do to tackle climate change and guarantee food safety and nutrient supply? Under such circumstances, indoor farming, or Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), was practiced throughout the world in a bid to solve the problems mentioned above.
But what is indoor farming going to look like in the future? We're now in an era where modularized hydroponic system and pipeline-style hydroponic system co-exist. They have paved the way for the early development of the industry but both of them require intense labor, which accounts for the high OPEX of a commercial indoor farm. Manpower is only going to cost more, so automation is the trend if we wish to bring down the cost. In 2018, SANANBIO has finished the first-phase development of its unmanned vertical farming system, a.k.a. UPLIFT, and has put it under trials. UPLIFT has automated seeding, germination, plant transportation, monitoring and harvesting. The high OPEX consists of electricity, manpower and equipment depreciation. Applying a more energy-efficient power system is another way to cut down the OPEX. SANANBIO has been developing its own automated hydroponic system that can scan the size of the crops and automatically move the plants to a plant site where the lighting is projected to be just suitable. Automated and energy efficient, UPLIFT is aiming to bring down the cost and make vertical farm produces affordable to more people. Vertical farms throughout the world are mainly devoted to the production of leafy greens and some of them are producing fruiting crops, medicinal herbs and berries. Theoretically, every cultivar can be grown in a vertical farm but some of them are rarely seen in one of these farms because of the high cost and the lack of researches. As we're deepening our understandings of light recipes, nutrients, indoor environment control and inexpensive energy sources, we're expecting to see wheat, rice and corn in a vertical farm in the future. After AlphaGo, the AI-powered robot, defeated a human chess player, we see the intelligent unmanned store, auto driving, medical analysis and surgery. SANANBIO is using AI to assist farm managers with big data and machine learning to better control farm environment, CO2, lighting, temperature, nutrients and crop growth. What more can be done in a SANANBIO indoor farm?