Automation and AI are hot in horticulture and US company iUNU is another example why that is. With their cameras, sensors and AI software, the company’s LUNA platform can be the eyes of the grower, being another tool to help growers improve their cultivation or enlarge the acreage they’re controlling. The company has raised $7M to accelerate global adoption of its LUNA platform.
“Pythium, powdery mildew, fungi,” Adam Greenberg, CEO with iUNU sums up. “Thanks to the self-learning capabilities of the system, growers will be able to find these threats much faster than they can do with their bare eyes. But that’s not the sole purpose – we can also help growers optimizing the germination rate for example, or finding the ideal grow rates. Thanks to the cameras, the sensors, and the software growers are provided with a better insight on what’s going on in their greenhouse. This way they can optimize plant growth and the yield.” It’s the LUNA platform Adam talks about, a technological solution developed by iUNU. With mobile and fixed cameras with high definition imaging and environmental sensors, everything down to the real-time growth rate of each plant is measured and recorded. The software combines computer vision and machine learning technologies to continuously build detailed models of individual plants, unique among millions, throughout the day. “LUNA detects even the most minute changes in health of individual plants, giving growers the precise knowledge they need for proactive management," he says.
While each grower using the LUNA platform owns their own imagery, the constant growth of the volume of imaging drives the machine learning and value the system provides. "LUNA learns from reading imagery, just as people do from reading a book, providing an immeasurable depth of experience and knowledge to the customers."
The platform fits in a trend in what AI and technological tools are more and more commercially available for growers. There's many platforms being launched and Adam explains how the iUNU technology can be integrated with those. "With our focus on the grower and our technology, we want to be the leader in vision technology in the greenhouse industry. This includes the integration of our system with those growing platforms. It will help the industry grow."
“The world is undergreenhoused,” Adam explains. “We have too few growers and agronomists. Yet consumer demand is really pushing for more and more greenhouse grown produce. In order to answer to this demand, we have to build systems that allow growers and operators to do more with less, to scale up. It is all about driving the industry larger by allowing companies to cover more ground with fewer growers. He adds how also increasing the profitability for growers is a big piece in this, something that they are able to do with their new platform since yield and market demand can be coordinated better.
Especially the profitability is named by S2G ventures in a response in the news of iUNU raising $7 million in an oversubscribed Series A financing, led by S2G Ventures and Ceres Partners with participation from Serra Ventures. "We are delighted to partner with iUNU to support the company's continued growth and long-term plans to make indoor growing operations more profitable and efficient," says Cristina Rohr, Principal at S2G Ventures. "The LUNA system continues to attract greenhouse growers as a leading comprehensive greenhouse management platform."
“The iUNU team has translated their long experience in greenhouses into an exciting computer vision platform powered by machine learning which empowers growers with new tools and capabilities to see, predict and take action,” said Walter Robb, Executive-in-Resident at S2G Ventures, “Both the magic and the mystery of plants growing comes alive in and through LUNA. It’s advanced technology supports the optimization of yield, labor and product quality, ultimately providing the end customer both superior processes and product while improving the profitability for growers.”
Adam adds how indeed a big part of the LUNA system is enabling the horticultural industry and the tech industry to communicate. "There's a group of smart horticulturists and agronomists and there's people from Intel and NASA for example. With their knowledge combined, great steps can be taken into the future of growing, but they do not speak the same language." With his father being a botanist and a job at Amazon on his resume, he has spend years of combining these two, with the LUNA platform as a result. The system surpassed one billion square feet of greenhouse analysis in 2019.
So how are the responses? "From the best growers we hear that they love working with it, and a small group even feels exposed by it every now and then," he laughs. "Well trained, passionate people have a valuable tool helping them achieve the best results. We spent a lot of time in putting the system together in a way that growers love working with it. Half of a success is what you do, the other half is how you do it."