Modern growing: data driven, digital horticulture

As the global supplies are struggling to catch up with growing demand for food, conventional farming is expanding at an alarming pace deleterious for the environment. "Modern horticulture is the golden solution for this rising problem addressing a number of issues that are left unattended in other farming practices. With the advent of ‘IoT’, combining computers into crop production and management has never been easier", János Lóczi with Gremon Systems says. 

János Lóczi, Tibor Orosz, Barbara Kékes-Szabó at the GreenTech show this month

Plant physiology
"Understanding and studying plant physiology is the first and foremost criterion a grower has to fulfill in order to succeed in horticultural business", János Lóczi with Gremon Systems explains. "Managing a cultivation consist of 4 basic parts at least: plant care (labour), irrigation, climate control and plant protection - although there are many efforts on the market to find solutions for data-driven crop management which will be able to take over responsibilities partly or maybe fully from growers."

The team with Gremon Systems specializes in these digital horticultural practices and developed plant monitor products like Trutina, Trutina Soil, and Insight Manager to answer to these challenges. "With our devices we can listen to the plants, thereby turning growing into a sophisticated and scientific approach of crop cultivation." 

Data-driven digital horticulture with built up Trutina Soil system 

Plant sensors
Plant sensors or physiology monitors used in growing can collect accurate and conclusive data that then is analysed in order to precisely deliver the exact requirement of the plant. The Trutina system is one of the systems doing so.

Is the data reliable?
Is the data derived from these systems reliable? "One hundred percent", says János "The reason is that ‘Trutina’ relies on two sets of data in order to complete the analysis. While most monitoring tools in current market focus on climatic data alone, we've perfected our methods by including plant data to improve the accuracy of the analysis. The human intervention must be focused on the right installation and positioning of the sensors thus minimising the chances of error."    

From where does the data arrive?
Sensors, wires and a controller unit of the Trutina system 

Importance of data analysis and its implementation  
Data collecting happens on a real-time basis, then is computed, analysed and elucidated real quick based on mathematical models to draw a conclusion regarding plant physiology. 

Data is collected from in-house sensors implanted in the growing space. There are various sensors like pyranometer, weight sensors, soil EC/WVC/TEMP sensor, etc. "All these sensors feed vital information to the Trutina main unit which collects, stores and sends data to the server, where mathematical models analyse the result and cater it to the user", says János, and shows how the grower gets the compiled result on his mobile, tablet or computer screen thereby speeding up the decision-making process.

The systems can be adapted to the practical circumstances. "Trutina Soil uses the collected data to optimise the irrigation strategy. Growers can provide input or reference values (which represent the local conditions) to make a comparison with the collected data, aiding the growing business to go in the right direction. So, growers do not need to be skilled in plant physiology as much." 

Scrolling through the plant data of Trutina 

What to measure?
There's a lot of data that can be used by growers in order to get the best results. For example, the pyranometer can measure the magnitude of solar irradiance vital for the plants. "This information compared to the irrigated amount of water is essential. If the crops are not getting enough solar radiation flux, irrigation systems must be started or stopped accordingly because it would affect the plant balance, both vegetative and generative phases of plant growth." 

To analyse the data, multiple scientific correlations are used. "Taking into account that it is rather difficult to follow what the situation is in the soil, for example, measuring only the moisture water content level is never going to give representative and enough information but combining it with plant water balance (plant weight) and the solar irradiance, it can help growers decide the extent of irrigation. If the irradiance is very high the plants get dehydrated quickly if vice versa the plant gets over hydrated, which affects the development." 

Another example is biomass growth. "It is mathematically verified that biomass growth has the strongest correlation to radiation and vapour pressure deficit (VPD). The goal should be to maximize the biomass growth with the highest fruit weight ratio", János explains. 

The future of farming
In order to reach this Gremon Systems found an easy to use digital solution to get crop registration data. Based on that it is possible to monitor and plan the yield forecast better. Gremon Systems offers central database that can collect, store and analyse data from different sources in a single framework: their Digital concept.   

Crop monitor unit of Gremon Digital Systems installed in a tomato greenhouse  

VDP value
Additionally, the company is working on a plant temperature monitoring system that allows growers to reach the VPD value. This can give a real-time assessment about the status of the plant. "Thus, collecting some vital parameters like vapour pressure deficit (VPD), irradiance, plant weight, crop data, etc. can help the crop production and management. These approaches serve as the hallmark of modern horticultural technology: Improving the yield, reducing wastage of resource and increasing the nutritional value of the produce."

Labour monitoring
Do you want to monitor more? Like employee statistics, for example? Being specialised in data collection, Gremon Systems has developed a solution for this as well: Insight Manager. This one gives an instant track of employee statistics, making the human resource administration easy.

"This workflow monitoring and decision support system is probably the most efficient solution on the market right now", says János. "t can be used by the largest professional companies as well as by smaller or cost sensitive players."

Insight manager mobile dashboard in a tomato greenhouse 

The Insight Manager system enables users to follow real-time activities of their employees in greenhouses and at surrounding sites. "As it can track norms, productivity and stability of workers, it provides sophisticated statistics containing important information about the productiveness of the business besides its common administrative back office support function." 

The system also has an application. "A user-friendly and cost-efficient solution. You can manage your teams with only one device via the application.  You can also manage groups while keeping individual data", János shows. "With Insight Manager task assignment is simpler than ever, you will have regular data backup, real-time monitoring, you can identify disorders easily, generate attendance registers, the system is easily extendable, and many more." 

A Trutina controller module attached to a truss

"Conventional growing is highly result orientated; as a result, the produce has high nutritional value and high quality. In modern horticultural practices, plant feedback-oriented devices help the grower fine-tune the plant requirement based on the data provided by Trutina and Trutina Soil", János concludes. "The plant growth is maintained at its ‘genetic best', meaning that the demand for extra resources can drastically be reduced. We've created an extensive array of plant physiology monitors working in tandem with climate sensors to educate farmers on the precise plant requirement when needed." 

For more information:
Gremon Systems
János Lóczi

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