By Phil Cross, CEO at amBX
As the world’s population increases, experts are collectively seeking environmentally friendly solutions to grow and source food; and vertical farms have become an increasingly popular way of solving this challenge. As we see the rise of vertical farming within the agriculture industry, we are also seeing the rise of smart lighting and the best ways to use and control lighting within these applications. Smart software solutions company amBX have the perfect solution for this challenge.
As vertical farms are indoor factory-like artificial growing environments, they are heavily reliant on technology to create the ideal conditions for crop growth. It is a successful method of growing specific herbs, fruit, and vegetables vertically, bringing them closer to the consumer, reducing transport emissions, overcoming issues of seasonality, and allowing higher quality yields to be produced.
Grow lights are one of the most important elements in a vertical farm; however, having constant static light throughout the day and then manually switching them off at night will not provide optimal growing conditions. However, in this fragmented market, unfortunately, this is still common practice.
A plant-friendly spectrum (approximately 400–700 nanometres) encourages crops to grow faster and produce higher yields. Having the ability to customise the light spectrum is important for optimisation, as different crops require different conditions to thrive. Adjusting the wavelengths and light algorithms can increase biomass production, enhancing flavour and quality.
The ability to control the lighting also empowers the grower to manage how much heat is emitted from the lights. Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) covers much more than just lighting; there is a precise recipe of factors that lead to quality growth; which include temperature, carbon dioxide, oxygen, lighting, humidity, nutrient concentration, pH, pest control and irrigation.
Smart technology helps to ensure sensors are effective and data is collected and sent to a central source, facilitating control and monitoring. CEA can also use advanced imaging through smart cameras and thermal imaging, which allows plant growth to be monitored. AI and ML can then learn from this information, perfecting conditions automatically and streamlining the efficiency of farms.
Many vertical farms struggle with the connectivity and interoperability of data between these different devices and systems. Many companies are selling hardware into this industry, and often they are proprietary, meaning their hardware only works with their software. This creates lots of data silos and has high maintenance costs, whilst also being very time-consuming. It is assumed interoperability is extremely expensive and therefore unattainable for many farms. amBX are working with several large indoor farming companies to solve these issues cost effectively. amBX’s integration software, SmartCore, acts as a middleware layer that connects all aspects of a farm and aggregates data into a custom UI, a customer’s own UI, or it can be sent to the cloud/third-party system. Their open architecture provides flexibility to successfully meet the needs of the end customer.
UV lighting is another lighting system which is sometimes used in vertical farms. Sterilisation is paramount here as no pesticides or chemicals are used in vertical farming. UV-C is a chemical-free way of efficiently destroying microorganisms to maximise the yield before any bacteria takes a hold.
Often UV lighting will be another separate system in addition to the grow lighting system. There may also be emergency lighting and standard lighting systems. amBX offer the ability to merge all of these systems into one – to simplify control and dramatically reduce costs.
Not only do these systems empower growers and end customers; they also work with lighting OEMs and software platforms. They add value through extra functionality, improved connectivity and supporting technical roadmaps.
amBX’s indoor farming system integrates lighting and various hardware in vertical farms, enabling powerful, granular management and data visualisation. The SmartCore Vertical Farming solution is a software-only integration platform that is compatible with a wide range of hardware, and is the ideal solution for vertical farm settings.