Digital transformation in vertical farming – FoodManufacture. co. uk
“Resources are finite, data is infinite . ” It’s a phrase I’ve started using in conversation with my colleagues and customers to summarise the urgent need to increase digital capabilities to stay competitive, while at the same time being able to gain tighter control on production variables to save resources plus energy usage. Digitalisation is not a phase or the trend; it’s the key in order to businesses becoming more competitive, more productive, and, of increasing importance, more sustainable.
As a sector, food and beverage is still catching up with other industries in terms of its overall electronic capabilities. And there are usually good reasons for this. But certain businesses, such as forward-thinking GrowPura, a vertical farming business with sites in Marston and Colworth, are starting to explore the true value associated with digital technologies.
I recently caught up with GrowPura’s executive chairman, Nick Bateman, to discuss his sector, his company and vertical farming’s hunger for technology.
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Now some months on from COP26, the world still seems to be at risk of irreversible plus uncontrollable impacts of climate change. While the impacts of global warming are arguably currently less obvious in countries like the particular UK, recent research is reporting that over 40% associated with the world’s population are usually highly vulnerable from changes to the climate.
When also considering the world’s ever-increasing population, sectors like agriculture are likely to come under increased pressure as land becomes more expensive, weather more volatile and demand a lot more extreme.
With this argument already well-known, Bateman explained countless other reasons as to why our society needs in order to rethink agriculture: “ Beyond the particular primary consideration of needing to provide more food to a growing populace with diminishing land availability, the food industry is actually very wasteful.
“Not only does traditional farming use huge amounts of property, but it also requires huge quantities of drinking water and transportation. As a global challenge that is not going away, high water usage is particularly challenging in areas like California or the Middle East. ”
“Food scarcity will be also a challenge. Some countries are even setting their own home-grown targets, with Singapore wanting to become 30% self-sufficient by 2030. As an ambitious target for a country with such a small land area, you can clearly see the benefits of being able in order to produce goods in a smaller space. ”
Bateman also highlighted that farming doesn’t simply advantage the meals sector. “Of course, these challenges are focused upon food. There is furthermore a huge demand with regard to ingredients in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, medical products and more. ”
What is vertical farming?
Population changes, weather, demand, foods reliability – these challenges are here to stay, and it is easy to understand why the world needs to consider an alternative in order to traditional agriculture. Vertical farming is an exciting solution. Fresh fruit, vegetables and some other ingredients can be grown indoors plus year-round without the need for large quantities of water, land mass or pesticides. These crops are also free from the vagaries of frost, drought, soil quality, insufficient sunlight or even flooding which can ruin an outdoor crop.
Crops are developed in a number of hydroponic solutions along with electric lighting and the advanced use of temperature, humidity and CO2 doing nature’s work in the clean, GMP, pesticide-free plus increasingly effective matter.
The premise behind the particular word ‘vertical’ in vertical farming is that this indoor growing can take place in stacks vertically, rather than on a single level. Yet as Bateman pointed out, there are many complications arising from this.
“Of course, plants aren’t used to growing upon different levels indoors, ” Bateman said. “So a person have in order to work hard to consider how to get the right amount associated with airflow and light in order to the plant and figure out how to actually harvest the crop.
“The biggest challenge is actually scale. You can do some great things through handmade function in little spaces, but this is usually labour plus energy intensive and does not create a long-term economical solution. A mindset that embraces technology such as sensors and AI is important. ”
Who is GrowPura?
UK-based GrowPura provides proven, technological options for efficient, sustainable plant growth. Its patented hydroponics technology answer centres around growing plants in water instead of soil within a controlled environment regarding optimum purity. But GrowPura doesn’t want to simply grow crops in this remedy themselves. It wants to share its technology all around the globe for maximum impact.
“Our aspiration is definitely to be a world-leading technology provider, ” stated Bateman. “We think we can have a bigger worldwide impact simply by licencing our own technology and building websites for others, rather than becoming a grower ourselves. ”
The key ingredient to GrowPura’s solution is movement. Being capable to move plants around a site means that wind can be simulated, helping to strengthen vegetation as if they were outside. Having considerable control over the movement of the plants has additional benefits, such as centralised irrigation, cleaning or even centralised sleeping! Spinach, for example , only needs a maximum associated with 14 hours of light a day, so being able to proceed it away from light is essential.
Central to such movement are automation plus the latest digital systems.
How can technologies support GrowPura?
Main to technology transformation in any industry is the foundation as well as the philosophy to embrace change. Once a foundation is set, continuous improvement is accelerated and modifications are simple since everything is certainly connected with real-time monitoring.
It’s excellent to see GrowPura embracing the particular power of integration. “We’re moving the crop all the time, so obviously we need to exercise great control of the harvest, ” said Bateman. “From the software required to give the instructions to our machine components in order to the sensing technologies needed to collect data on operations, being able to manage a range of technology is obviously key.
“Hence, having a standard network infrastructure where data is easily transmissible across systems is essential, from the building control systems through to the process control software. This is where an organisation like Siemens can really support. ”
Having been inside the industry for more than ten years, Bateman is well placed to understand the true value of technologies to the field. “ The more time you spend within the industry, the more you learn about what you can do and exactly how technology is the enabler for transformation. Mobile phones used to just be used to communicate, whereas now you can arranged reminders, browse the internet or use a range associated with other applications. With technology having developed so far in recent times, why wouldn’t we apply the latest in order to vertical farming? ”
At Siemens, we love technology with purpose, technologies that makes the real difference to the particular industries and businesses this serves. That’s why it’s so exciting to find out GrowPura looking to embrace the most recent technology to transform the food sector. What might be next? Vertical vineyards?