Farming 4.0: technology that works for us
Vertical farming is not a new concept. However, few approaches allow for easy integration with existing agricultural practices. With this in mind, we designed the Winter Farm, with a view to quickly deploying with existing growers a large-scale production network that could be incorporated into supply chains.
Our solution brings together the principles of vertical farming and the advanced techniques of farming 4.0, which leverages data and artificial intelligence for rapid learning and precise crop and environmental control. The Winter Farm consists of interconnected rooms that growers can integrate with their operating and production environments. The standard growing room can easily be aligned and stacked. It can even serve as a base for a traditional greenhouse complex. Plant density per square metre per tier can be up to 5 times higher than with traditional greenhouse production and 15 times that of field-grown crops.
As an example, let’s look at our very first crop, the Winter Berry.
The strawberries grow in soil, as they naturally would outdoors. However, every climatic element is monitored and controlled. Adjustments are made continually, so we don’t need to wait until the first harvest to see the fruit’s strengths and weaknesses. How does it work? Here are a few details.
- Special lighting recreates the benefits of natural sunlight, giving the plant the optimal amount of energy.
- Winter Farm runs entirely on hydroelectricity, Quebec’s cleanest source of energy. Heat recovery makes it possible to maximize energy efficiency and warm adjacent spaces, like the greenhouses. This allows us to replace fossil fuel heating.
- A smart, automated irrigation system ensures that the strawberry plants are watered as needed.
- Drainage water is recycled, eliminating the discharge of dirty water into the environment.
- A ventilation system constantly filters and purifies the air in the growing room. Quebec-designed UV lamps control pathogen spores. By significantly reducing the risk of pathogen propagation, the system minimizes the need for biocontrol.
- Plant pollination is no different from conventional strawberry farming. That’s right, we bring real bumble bees into our rooms!
Each strawberry plant is carefully monitored to ensure it is healthy and productive. In fact, berry pickers gather plump, delicious strawberries almost every day.