Seminar on IoT and farming

If you're an entrepreneur, ag-tech industry expert or investor, then you don't want to miss out on our free seminar on IoT in farming.

Several leading food production companies will present challenges and problems in the industry as of today. The intention is to bring entrepreneurs and the industry together to map out real needs in the market.

The Federation of Norwegian Agricultural Co-operatives, StartupLab, and Biogrid are the hosts of this new seminar series. The first event takes place on March 1st 2016, at StartupLab in Oslo Science Park. 


Food-producing computers

Biogrid has created two prototypes of a modular plant growing machine equipped with LED control and environmental sensors. The machines provide the plants with water and nutrients as a fine mist, a technique known as aeroponics. Light is provided with high-power red and blue LEDs.

The purpose of the prototypes is to generate real environmental sensor readings and to demonstrate actuator controls. The initial sensors are humidity, temperature and CO2 in the leaf zone, as well as pH and EC in the nutrient solution. Various microcontroller configurations have been tested, including the Particle Photon and the incredible ESP8266.

Much to our surprise and delight, we discovered that MIT has been working on very similar project, the open source Food Computer, which was just recently released to the public.

The point of building plant growing machines (or food computers) is to be able to experiment with different growing recipes in fully controlled environments. And for people interested in the Internet of Things, such machines are the perfect testing environment for machine learning, data visualization, monitoring, and control. 

Vertical Farming Day

The Internet of Things has the potential to revolutionize how we produce food in the future. Specifically, IoT makes it possible to optimize indoor food production by instrumenting production equipment with low-cost sensors and by moving monitoring, analytics and alert systems into the cloud.

While investigating how vegetables are produced in Norway, we realized that indoor food production in traditional greenhouses can be greatly improved by moving from flat (2D) growing surfaces to a stacked (3D) setup, where plants are grown several stories high under LED lights. This kind of setup is known as vertical farming, and it’s already quite common in Japan and in the US.

But here in Scandinavia, only a few people seemed to have heard about vertical farming. Indeed, for a Norwegian farmer, the words “vertical farming” would bring up mental images of a farmer working the plough on the face of an extremely steep mountain.

So Biogrid decided to arrange a seminar named Vertical Farming Day in Oslo. The purpose of the event was to inform decision makers, investors, entrepreneurs and visionaries about this new technology, and how it can be used for year-round indoor food production, completely independent of climate change and seasonal variations.

In particular we wanted to showcase commercial success stories, academic research, and details on the state of the art, technology-wise. So we invited a set of prominent experts in the field, who gave excellent talks on everything from the state of the art in LED-based growing, to controlled environment agriculture and precision farming, and how to profitably set up and run a vertical farm.

Speakers

  • Dr. Cary A. Mitchell, research professor at Purdue University.
  • Dr. Frank Larsen, CEO of the Innovation Centre Hedmark.
  • Dr. Audun Korsæth, research professor at the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research.
  • Robert Colangelo, CEO of Green Sense Farms 
  • Per Åge Lyså CEO of Intravision Group 
  • August Flatby, CEO of Biogrid.

The event was held on October 12, 2015 with over 200 registered attendees. Let's hope that at least one of the attendees will start a vertical farm in Norway one day!

 

Nordic IoT Challenge

Telenor Connexion just announced the winners of an innovation competition called the Nordic IoT Challenge. The goal was come up with the most innovative idea or device that uses connected technology to improve the everyday lives of people. Biogrid’s entry made it almost to the top, and we ended up receiving honorable mentions.

Biogrid’s entry was an idea for a SIM-card connected device named the BioSpike. The BioSpike is a low-cost soil- and climate sensor that will be used to lift smallholder farmers in less developed countries out of poverty.

We wanted to come up with a concept that would make sense in the new territories that Telenor operates in, such as Myanmar, which is one of the least developed countries on the planet. Despite the importance of agriculture in Myanmar and other developing countries, the practice is often sub-optimal due to wrong use of fertilizers, poor seed quality, and a focus on subsistence farming and not on farming for market distribution. Subsistence farming tend to be highly risk-averse, meaning that the focus is on minimizing loss and not on maximizing gains.

We had the great opportunity to discuss the idea with Asia-expert Hugh Mason at the JFDI incubator in Singapore. Hugh has a great ability to see the large picture and by using his insight into the Asian markets, he quickly sketched out the rough idea for the BioSpike. 

For insight into the conditions met by farmers in developing countries, and the state of fertilizer use, we discussed the concept with the director of the Development Fund in Norway, Kari Helene Partapuoli and the director of Crop Nutrition Solutions in the global fertilizer company Yara, Pål Øystein Stormorken. Based on their input, we came up with the complete concept, from the actual hardware component and its associated back-end application to the complete business idea and roll-out plan.

If you’re interested in learning more about the BioSpike and how the Internet of Things can be used to reduce poverty, then feel free to contact us.

On Vertical Farming

Our planet is experiencing a steadily growing population. By 2050, we will be more than 9 billion people, and more than 70% will live in cities.

To keep up with the population growth, we need to invent new and improved ways to produce food. Food production should be cost-effective, climate-independent, resource efficient, and the crops should require little transportation.

Vertical farming is an example of a new and promising way to produce food. Vertical farming allows vegetables to be grown in a fully controlled and structured environment so that all aspects of plant growth can be monitored and optimized.

Successful vertical farming is dependent on innovative new technologies that combine knowledge of plant physiology with electronics and cloud computing. In other words, successful vertical farming is dependent on a solid Internet of Things platform with specific applications targeted at agriculture. That’s why Biogrid’s first application, built on top of the Biogrid Cortex platform, is specifically targeted towards vertical farms.