Want to learn more about how we farm at SMARTKAS? We’re celebrating this festive season with 12-days of Agtech, our essential guide to our smart farming process. Join us as we break down a different topic over the next 12 days. Covering topics from the roles of artificial intelligence (AI) to all the varieties we grow, we hope to provide some insight for you.
Smart Farms vs. Traditional Farms
SMARTKAS farms very differently to more traditional flat farms. Traditional farming mostly takes place outdoors leaving produce at the mercy of the elements and occupying a larger area of land. Smart vertical farming saves a lot of space by utilizing stacking methods and protecting produce year around by remaining indoors. By not taking up as much horizontal space, much of what would be used for traditional farming can be left for wildlife and for nature to revive.
What are the factors that make farming smart then? By reading the following sections you will learn all about it.
SK & AI
What does artificial intelligence mean to SMARTKAS? And more importantly, how do we use it? The best way to describe the role of A.I. in our process is to imagine a greenhouse with a brain - it is able to monitor all the aspects of the indoor environment; the light, humidity, CO2 levels, and nutrition given to the plants. The A.I. learns about what works or doesn’t work to create an optimal ‘growth recipe’ for each type of plant.
These ultimate growth recipes developed by A.I., ensures crops grown at SMARTKAS smart farms reach their full potential in flavor, nutrients, color, and shelf life. Because one of our goals is to become the leader of plant data, we gather all the information and share it with our growers globally, no matter where they are situated in the world.
NFT’S (Nutritient Film Technique)
SMARTKAS NFTs? No we’re not talking non-fungible tokens, but Nutrient Film Technique. Our NFT allows plants to flourish with a nutrient water solution running beneath them in their growing environment. The plants are placed in racks with their roots reaching to the water. The system ensures the plants are provided with a constantly flowing nutrient supply, so they grow happy and healthy! Now that's a valuable asset.
Controlled Closed Environment
A controlled closed environment means we can fully manage the growing environment of our crops. This means airflow, temperature, humidity and more! Because plants are sensitive, having too much or too little of any of these control points can lead to unhealthy crops and decrease in yield.
Another bonus for such an environment, is it contributes to cleaner and healthier produce, as no harmful chemicals to human health nor threatening pests are involved in the process. Having full control over a smart farm can contribute to up to 90% less water than in traditional farming, as the nutrient water flow is circulated and reused as many times as possible!
PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density)
You probably already know that the lumen is a unit of measurement that tells us how much light is given off from a bulb. But what about on the receiving side of things? Do you know how we measure how much light is being absorbed? This is where PPFD comes in.
Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density, or PPFD, measures the intensity of PAR light (photosynthetically active radiation) that lands on m2 each second; or more simply put, how much PAR light touches a given area in a given time. SK uses this measurement to check in on how well the plants are absorbing light. The higher the PPFD, the bigger and healthier the plant!
Grow Light Spectra
On the spectrum of light, one end being infrared, the other being ultraviolet, right in the middle is the area known as visible light. This is what you and I see everyday. When a plant is in a closed controlled environment, this means they have no access to sunlight, and light is then created artificially for them. We know what you’re thinking… how can ‘unnatural’ light lead to healthy plants?
By utilizing the A.I. data collected on each plant's optimal growth period, the light qualities, timing, and spectra can be adjusted accordingly to mimic their rhythm in natural daylight; thus creating ‘light recipes’ for each different plant. Smart farm growers can then speed up the plant growth and trigger biological responses by utilizing these ‘light recipes.’ This all leads to increasing the quality and quantity of produce that can be made available to the consumer.
Many people are familiar with the process that plants go through during the day called photosynthesis, where they take in sunlight and CO2, and output oxygen and sugars. However, during the night, plants go through something called respiration, which is almost the exact inverse process. The plants instead take in oxygen and use the sugars to grow new plant tissue, to then emit CO2. By understanding our plants' natural ebb and flow throughout the day, we can better support their environment. And that includes the CO2 levels.
Part of the full control of the growing environment is also the amount of substances we can dose to the plants, one of them being CO2. PPM, or Parts per Million, is what we use to measure the amount of CO2 in a space. In traditional farming around 400ppm is used, whereas in SMARTKAS grow rooms, 1,200ppm is used and directly consumed by the plants. This tripling of CO2 in a closed space leads to triple the growth and yield of our produce. Although more is being used in the space, there is no excess CO2 being released to the atmosphere, which has a direct impact on the environment.
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs)
Our modern world is lit up in a variety of ways. Walking around any city or driving at night, the street lights you see are a form of sodium light, which gives off around 20% light and 80% heat. We are also surrounded by LEDs. The TVs you watch your favorite shows and sports on, the computer you work from home on, and even the phone you’re probably reading this blog on.
But what does LED stand for and how is it different from sodium lighting? LED stands for ‘light-emitting diode’ and as opposed to their counterparts, they give off 80% light and only 20% heat. This means using LEDs is not only energy efficient, but also saves in costs, as there is less need to cool down the growing chambers.
Electrical conductivity (EC) & Fertilizing
Did we already mention that plants at SMARTKAS receive their nutrients through water? Want to know how we measure the amount of nutrients that the plants take in? The answer is salt. But more specifically, by continuously measuring the electrical conductivity, or EC, in the water to tell us how much salt is in the water at any given time. The more salt present in the water, the higher the EC. The less salt, the lower the EC.
To better fine tune the needs of the plants outside of monitoring the EC, water samples are also taken at the beginning where the water flows from, and at the end after it has run through the plants. This water analysis helps us adjust the fertilizing recipes accordingly.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
Another important factor related to agriculture technology is GMO, or genetically modified organisms, and our choice at SMARTKAS NOT to use them. GMOs are usually manufactured to enhance the appearance, quality and taste of a crop, to protect from pests, adjust nutritional values, and prevent susceptibility to disease. On the other side of GMOs, there is a growing concern surrounding seed monopolization, creating weeds and pests that are resistant to pesticides, and causing the development of new food allergies.
Out of all the pros and cons of GMO foods, thanks to our supreme technology and fully closed environment, there is no need for us to use GMOs.
Varieties we can grow
All of these supreme qualities of the technology we use of course results in something. And that’s high-quality, flavorful fruits, veggies, and leafy greens! In our unique growing solutions, we are able to provide 50 varieties of produce at our smart farms. This includes varieties such as lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, and bell peppers, all of which require a different set of growing environments that we are able to provide.
Because of our use of hydroponic, specific LED lighting, and fully controlled environment, our process is able to ensure consistent, high-quality yield of nutritious food year round. By breaking down these components of AI-assisted smart farming, we hope to have provided some of the benefits of this system compared to traditional farming methods. By utilizing the most innovative solutions in Agtech, we are able to take steps closer in reaching our goal of solving world hunger.
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