Cukurova University in Türkiye developing horizontal lettuce production system with artificial intelligence

Cukurova University in Türkiye is developing a horizontal lettuce production system with artificial intelligence. The study, which also provides 95-98 % water savings, aims to determine suitable climatic conditions for lettuce cultivation and to obtain products in the shortest time and with a high yield.

Working within the scope of the project "Optimizing Model Plant Lettuce Production Techniques with Artificial Intelligence," which was implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, General Directorate of Agricultural Research and Policies (TAGEM), Cukurova University (CU) and a company in September last year, the project team of 10 people grow lettuce with soilless agriculture on multi-story shelves at Cukurova University Closed Vertical R&D Facility.

In the facility, the data obtained by studying LED lighting combinations, the development of the plant depending on the length of the days (photoperiod), and different temperature and humidity rates are combined with artificial intelligence.

With the study, where 95-98% water savings are achieved, production models in different combinations are created in the light of data. CU Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Horticulture, Lecturer Prof. Dr. Hayriye Yildiz Dasgan said that with the project, they were able to provide aquaculture in plant factories or closed vertical farming facilities under completely controlled environmental conditions.

Stating that they used led lamps instead of sunlight and that they adjusted the day and night temperatures at the desired level with the heating and cooling systems, Dasgan stated that they also controlled environmental conditions such as humidity and carbon dioxide ratio. Noting that factors such as the restriction of water used in agriculture due to climate change, temperature, and flood will adversely affect plant cultivation, Dasgan continued as follows:

"Closed vertical farming facilities offer the possibility of fully controlled plant cultivation independent of climate and space, in marginal areas where soil cannot be cultivated, even inside buildings and on the roofs of city centers. We do aquaculture without using soil. Aquaculture is used in areas where there is no soil and in conditions where the soil is not suitable for cultivation. It is a technique that uses water very economically, even though it is grown with water. We use only 2 to 5 % of the water used in the soil. We can grow plants by saving 95-98 % of water. This will be a very good solution to the threat of drought. Indoor vertical farming facilities with soilless production will be a very good solution against sustainable food security threats such as climate change, drought, and epidemics."

Dasgan said that with the closed vertical farming method, plants grow in a shorter time compared to soil and greenhouse, and he pointed out that with this system, uninterrupted and continuous production can be made throughout the year, as it is not dependent on climate and natural conditions.

Dasgan said: "The productivity obtained in unit area is very high in these multi-level systems. While you can grow 8-10 lettuce in one square meter of soil, you have to multiply it by the number of floors in multi-layer systems. This form of agriculture is new abroad as well. Since the climatic conditions in our country are not very disadvantageous, soilless production still continues in greenhouses. We have already started research and development studies, thinking that we may need it in the coming years." 

Dasgan said that they are currently growing lettuce within the scope of the project and that they will work on green leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, parsley, and dill, and later on strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

Department of Horticulture Lecturer Assoc. Dr. Bekir Bulent Arpaci stated that approximately 28,000 data points obtained from the studies will be processed, and different combinations will be created.

Emphasizing that they aim to create an environment where the product can be grown at the most suitable level by associating the climate data with the morphological and physiological characteristics of lettuce, Arpaci said, "The data obtained in this way will be associated with artificial intelligence, and those who set up this system in future studies will be able to create the most suitable climatic conditions in lettuce cultivation." 

Source: AA

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