Better quality products. A larger harvest. Improved planning to predict crop yields. Better control of costs, including energy and labor. Today, a new age is dawning to help greenhouse farmers achieve these goals.
It's the age of autonomous growing, in which artificial intelligence and data-driven solutions enable growers to make more informed decisions about their crop production, and even automate parts of their production. Autonomous growing has received a lot of hype in recent years. But the hype is transitioning into reality as more and more suppliers introduce data-driven solutions and services.
A new light on growth from Signify
Many factors contribute to greenhouse results. These include climate control, irrigation, root zone substrates, seeds and breeder quality, and of course, lighting. Signify has a long history of making light work better for growers. That innovation continues today.
"We will have a complete program in place that will lead the industry in data-driven lighting solutions," says Kay Rauwerdink, Program Manager Horti Data Driven Solutions at Signify. "New developments in the function of supplemental lighting will support the craftmanship of LED greenhouse growers to improve both the quality of their crops and the results of their business. We are developing a new light on growth."
Artificial intelligence in the greenhouse
It's happening in industries all around us, from banking and insurance to healthcare and manufacturing. Organizations collect and analyze large amounts of data using algorithms, also known as artificial intelligence (AI), to gain insights that help them make better-informed business decisions.
Modern greenhouses are full of sensors to measure parameters such as temperature, CO2, humidity, and plant nourishment. This generates large amounts of data. A number of technology suppliers are introducing data platforms that growers can use to collect, store and analyze this data.
To implement data-driven lighting solutions, you need to get access to data. Signify will not install its own sensors. Rather, it will use data points that are already stored somewhere in the climate computers of greenhouses.. Kay: "Growers want to work from one platform and one user interface. That's why we are designing our data-driven lighting solutions to operate as much as possible on existing data platforms."
Added intelligence to grow lights and controls
Signify is the number 1 supplier of grow lights in the world. For many years, the company has led the horticulture industry by bringing the best lighting solutions and recipes. By adding data and algorithms, Signify will lead customers into a new era and again take a major step to enhance the function of light. One focus today is on technology that uses data to control lighting hardware more intelligently, especially via the Philips GrowWise Control System.
"Energy costs are a big topic," says Kay. "We are investigating solutions to integrate external data, such as energy prices, into the grower's lighting strategy. This can create a solid business case." LED lighting is already highly efficient. Data-driven lighting will offer growers even more opportunities to manage energy usage throughout the day and reduce costs.
Digitizing support from its plant specialists
Around the world, Signify provides post-sales support from its plant specialists, who help growers to get the most out of their LED investments. This support includes regular discussions on the best lighting strategy for each grower's particular crop and situation. The knowledge provided by the Signify specialists is crucial for a successful cultivation strategy and greenhouse operations.
"The number of projects is exploding," says Kay. "This growth is generating a huge increase in requests for post-sales plant specialist support. The challenge is to find smart and efficient ways to serve our growing community of customers, located around the globe, with the plant specialists we have available."
Remote access to climate and crop data will provide part of the answer. Thanks to data storage in the climate computers of participating growers, Signify plant specialists will have – after growers' consent - real-time, remote access to their data. This will help to prepare the most optimal lighting strategy for growers
Additionally, Signify is developing decision-support tools for lighting based on algorithms to analyze the data and provide custom-made advice for each grower's particular crop and situation. "We can also give the grower themself remote access to the data and the decision-support tools," says Kay. "This will reduce their dependency on the plant specialist and empower the grower with lighting intelligence."
Trust and transparency in privacy and security
The age of autonomous growing is bringing great opportunities. However, as in all industries undergoing digital transformation, it will also raise a few fundamental questions about privacy and data security. Where is my data being stored? How secure is the storage? Who has access to my data, and what are they doing with it?
"These are not new topics to us," says Kay. "Signify is leading more sectors into the benefits of data-driven lighting, such as indoor lighting for warehouses and offices. Our guiding principles are trust and transparency. We always create an official agreement with the customer on what data we will use and how we will use it."
Data-driven lighting benefits worldwide
Each year, the number of Signify LED installations worldwide increases. This is in line with a global trend toward more high-tech horticulture, in which light is a crucial element. Exactly how growers will benefit from data-driven lighting technologies depends on their current situation.
Many growers already have established operations with high levels of growing knowledge. "These growers will benefit from tools that reduce routine tasks and automate their decision-making to lower operational costs, increase harvest amounts and quality, and better predict crop yields," says Kay. "Where operations are newer and less established, cloud-based data analysis and remote access will help us assist growers with tools and knowledge that would otherwise not be so readily available."
Thought leaders in data-driven lighting
Wherever growers are located, one thing is for sure. Digital transformation is a disruptive force. It is bringing new challenges and potentially great benefits to virtually every industry. Greenhouse growing with LED technology is no exception.
"Signify is investing heavily to position ourselves in data-driven lighting," says Kay. "Growers who embrace these new technologies can achieve a substantial competitive advantage."