Growing one plant is not that difficult, growing tens of thousands in a single greenhouse is a different cup of tea. In order to allow growers to stay ahead of the curve, Illumitex is investing in the development of their Digital Horticulture platform. The horticulture lighting company is working on camera sensor technology and software to scout pests and diseases, and to give growers up-to-date information on the quality, production and overall state of every single plant.
The idea of using camera sensor technology to scout crops for pests and diseases is not new in present-day horticulture. The fact that a manufacturer of cutting-edge LED technology is researching these opportunities too makes it an interesting topic. It makes sense though, as Illumitex can benefit from the already existing intimacy between lights and plants. By developing the right camera sensor technology and software, they can take advantage of the existing infrastructure and hardware in their lighting technology.
We asked Illumitex's recently appointed CEO Jeff Bisberg if we can soon expect one or more cameras inside their luminaries. He explained that Illumitex first aims to develop a system that allows a grower not only to capture data, but also to digest it into relevant information.
"There are three major parts to Illumitex’s Digital Horticulture system. Cameras, database, and analytic applications", Bisberg said. "In our first installations, cameras are deployed independent of the fixtures enabling us to focus on building a robust database of images. This allows us to experiment with the widest range of camera technologies that include; IR, multispectra, PTZ, thermal and low cost webcams. In a sense we are working backwards, identify the desired plant outcome first and then choosing cameras that capture the correct image. Once the highest ROI analytics are identified, deeper integration will take horticulturalist’s decision making to the next level."
Bisberg stressed that this is part of their strategy to first develop a system that allows the creation of a secure, grower-owned, data set that gives a picture of every single plant, every ten minutes.
"We have designed the system to capture and store terabytes of data. Practically, no one can look at a small fraction of that many pictures so we are taking advantage of the newest technologies, smart algorithms, and machine learning technology to analyze the images. We set this up so that the farmer/grower owns the data and we give them control of the data through a secure user interface."
Illumitex is investing heavily in the development of their new platform. Over the next period, trials and further research will showcase the full potential of Digital Horticulture. "Farming is a visual process and this new technology will provide more detailed information to help our customers improve top line profits and reduce bottom line costs. Think about digitally scouting crops for pests and diseases, at scale, across acres, every ten minutes and only being notified if something looks off. Also think about using near real time measurements of every plant to tweak and maximize your growth. It’s a big vision and the technology is capable of doing it now. We're looking for the highest ROI applications and are excited about helping farmer/growers make better decisions faster to make the difficult job of growing plants at scale a little easier."