Gamechanger: How Artificial Intelligence Works in the Greenhouse

With increasing input prices, razor thin margins, and a revolving door of qualified growers and skilled labor, something’s got to give. Could artificial intelligence (AI) be the answer? iUNU thinks so. The Seattle company (pronounced you-knew) launched its LUNA system in August, and already has orders filling up the next two years.

But developing an AI solution is not about replacing growers; it’s about augmenting their jobs by allowing them to be in two places at once, work proactively instead of reactively to solve plant growth issues in real time, and redirect the way they use their time by reducing the number of hours dedicated toward scouting crops and walking through greenhouses to check environmental conditions. Instead, growers can check crop conditions over coffee, and flag problems, create task lists, and assign tasks to staff members before they walk into work in the morning.

“We want to be the grower’s best friend,” says Adam Greenberg, CEO of iUNU.

How it Works

LUNA begins to capture growing data from the moment the system is switched on in the greenhouse. The system uses 3D imagery and environmental sensors to monitor plant growing conditions in real time. Growers can view each individual plant, and each bay of plants, from anywhere through software accessible on handheld devices. They set the environmental and growing parameters, and are able to set up alarms if those conditions change. With access to recorded data, growers can also “go back in time,” to view and compare plant growth and conditions from previous days, weeks, months, and even years, side by side with current crop conditions.

“The ability to capture historical data with artificial intelligence will provide grower operations with a way to develop tribal knowledge in growing practices, to automate the production process in a way that is consistent and repeatable, no matter who comes or goes from the operation,” Greenberg says.

With these features, LUNA gives growers the data they need for proactive management based on precise knowledge, and ideally will help growers maximize product yields and quality, reduce operational costs and waste, and confidently predict ready dates.

“All of the solutions we have seen so far focus on improving the grower’s reaction time to problems,” Greenberg says. “We reject the premise that ‘reactive mode’ is the natural state for growers. With the right technology, thoughtfully applied to give them better computer driven visibility, greenhouse operators can be as precise, proactive, and predictable as modern manufacturing operations.”

Technology Evolved Over Time

The LUNA system has been developed through an intensive, on-site learning process at grower operations that has provided the iUNU team with extensive knowledge about the realities of the greenhouse environment — and what works and what doesn’t, says Chief Technology Officer Matt King.

The new, high-resolution, 3D, traveling camera offered as part of the LUNA system moves on rails and changes direction with transfer stations set up at different points in the greenhouse.

This experience has ultimately birthed the newest iteration of the LUNA system: one traveling, mounted robotic camera per greenhouse that moves along a track and is able to change directions via transfer stations. The new camera allows for better imaging, zoom, and high-resolution 3D imagery and modeling of each plant to see plant growth aspects like bud development, nutritional issues, and pest or disease symptoms. With both broad range views and the ability to zoom in and view individual plants, LUNA detects minute changes in each plant’s development in real time, and immediately communicates the actions required to ensure healthy outcomes.

The system’s sensors are implemented at the plant level to record critical environmental conditions within the greenhouse canopy, providing more accurate readings than wall-mounted sensors, King says.

iUNU works with greenhouse engineers to fit the system in and customize it to a greenhouse’s existing infrastructure, being careful not to emit extra shadows or anything that could disrupt a crop, says Head of Customer Success Shane Lewis.

“It’s important to us to make the system fit in seamlessly, and not expect growers to change anything about their current layout,” Lewis says.

Seeking Partnerships, Not Just Profits

The data recorded through LUNA should complement and work with a grower’s existing ERP system, fitting in somewhere between environmental controls systems and ERP — iUNU isn’t out to replace ERP software or other systems, Greenberg says. It can also interface with other automation equipment, at the grower’s request. The system is customized for each operation, and while iUNU does provide suggested return on investment targets, the company will not charge the grower for the system until a return is realized.

iUNU is committed to becoming a partner to each growing operation, and because of the time and infrastructure it provides as part of each installation, like getting Wi-Fi in each greenhouse where LUNA lives, the company has a significant investment in each grower partner, as well. The system is just one element of the partnership iUNU hopes to offer to growers.

“We don’t want to sell a widget — we want to sell support as a system,” Lewis says. “It’s about having your back. We’re all about building relationships with growers.”

Learn more about iUNU and how it got its start with its launch this past August, and find out more details on the Gamechangers Initiative.

Topics: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

More From Production...
Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

April 14, 2018

Kemin Forms Distribution Partnership With Plant Products

Under the agreement, Plant Products will be a Kemin Crop Technologies’ distributor in the northeastern U.S.

Read More

April 13, 2018

Dümmen Orange Debuts New Rooting Technology

Basewell bare-root cuttings feature advanced root development and no growing media, which allows products to ship to growers from off-shore production locations, ready to transplant directly into the finish container.

Read More

April 12, 2018

New Automatic Guided Vehicle Helps Move Product Around the Greenhouse

The Lowpad is less than 5 inches tall and is designed to navigate the greenhouse floor safely and freely.

Read More
Latest Stories
Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

April 14, 2018

Kemin Forms Distribution Partnership With Plant Product…

Under the agreement, Plant Products will be a Kemin Crop Technologies’ distributor in the northeastern U.S.

Read More

April 13, 2018

Dümmen Orange Debuts New Rooting Technology

Basewell bare-root cuttings feature advanced root development and no growing media, which allows products to ship to growers from off-shore production locations, ready to transplant directly into the finish container.

Read More

April 10, 2018

New Tool Helps Greenhouse Growers Analyze Irrigation Wa…

The University of Connecticut and University of Florida have partnered to launch the WaterQual tool as part of the CleanWateR3 research program.

Read More

April 6, 2018

Using Data Loggers in the Greenhouse

The fifth article of this five-part series about the tools you need to measure environmental and cultural parameters in your greenhouse, you will learn why you should be using data loggers and how to best put them to use.

Read More
Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

April 3, 2018

8 Ways to Boost Your Skills in Greenhouse Cost Manageme…

The University of Florida’s upcoming four-week online training courses are designed to help your grower staff make better crop management decisions.

Read More

April 2, 2018

Insect Management Tool From SePRO Registered in Califor…

Hachi-Hachi SC is active on all life stages of insects such as thrips, aphids, and mealybugs.

Read More

April 1, 2018

Meet Chili, NatureFresh Farms’ Pest-Detecting Can…

NatureFresh Farm’s newest employee may have four paws, but that doesn’t stop her from sniffing out a major pest problem.

Read More

March 28, 2018

USDA Allocates $70 Million for Invasive Pest and Diseas…

The funding will be used to examine ways to prevent the introduction or spread of invasive plant pests and diseases that threaten U.S. agriculture and the environment.

Read More

March 24, 2018

Two Simple Hydroponic Production Solutions That Generat…

Factoring in these two production considerations can help you prevent a host of problems and turn out higher quality hydroponic crops.

Read More
Bees on flowers

March 20, 2018

Walmart Files Patent for Pollination Drone

The drone would be capable of pollinating flowers and crops the same way a bee would, using cameras and sensors to identify pollen in flowers.

Read More

March 18, 2018

New Soil Amendment From Kemin Promotes More Efficient N…

Valena, a soil amendment sourced from a proprietary strain of Euglena gracilis (algae) rich in beta-glucan, is designed to support the growth of healthy and strong plants.

Read More

March 13, 2018

Greenhouse Biocontrol Goes Mainstream

Biological control has moved into the mainstream for greenhouse growers. And the timing couldn’t be better, as consumer demands for more sustainable production methods for the plants they buy are moving back upstream.

Read More
Downy mildew sporulation on underside of leaf

March 10, 2018

Segovis Fungicide Now Available to Ornamental Growers i…

Segovis, from Syngenta, features a unique active ingredient that helps control downy mildew and Phytophthora.

Read More

March 4, 2018

Monitoring Carbon Dioxide in the Greenhouse

In addition to temperatures conducive to growth, light (photosynthetically active radiation; PAR, which was covered in part 3 of this series), water, and nutrients, plants also require carbon dioxide (CO2) for photosynthesis (carbon assimilation), which ultimately affects plant growth, vigor, and vegetable and cut flower yield. Carbon dioxide is an odorless and colorless trace gas. Today, ambient CO2 levels outdoors comprise 0.04% of atmospheric volume, or around 400 μmol∙mol−1 (or parts per million, ppm). Plants take up CO2 by diffusion, through small pores called stomates that are primarily located on the underside of leaves. The opening and closing of stomates can be influenced by leaf and air temperatures, light levels, humidity, water stress, CO2 concentration, and oxygen (O2) in the air and leaf. Thus, if any of these environmental or cultural factors used for photosynthesis are limiting in the greenhouse, plant growth and yield are less. Until recently, the vast […]

Read More

March 3, 2018

How to Keep Your Greenhouse Crop Free of Disease

All growers deal with the possibility of damaging disease issues in the greenhouse. Here’s how Pleasant View Gardens makes sure its greenhouse crops stay disease-free.

Read More
Adult Thrips feature

February 20, 2018

Thrips Causing Headaches? New Research Shows Bio-based …

Dr. Rose Buitenhuis will present practical knowledge for growers to implement immediately during Biocontrols West Conference in San Diego, March 7-9.

Read More

February 18, 2018

Why Biochar Might Eventually Replace Peat Moss

In a recent study, researchers from the University of California, Davis investigated biochar as an alternative to peat moss.

Read More

February 15, 2018

Boxwood Blight, Seed Your Future Among Topics Receiving…

The Horticultural Research Institute recently announced the 10 research projects that will receive funding in 2018 to investigate challenges and solutions in production, pest management, environmental stewardship, and business and marketing.

Read More