how high technology helps grow food through three unusual projects

Birches and potatoes on Mars? Why not

High technology is not only about autopilots in machines, quantum computers and miniature servers in data centers. Hi-tech penetrates absolutely all spheres of life, science, medicine and business. One of such industries is agriculture, if, of course, you can call it that.

We are talking about all sorts of autonomous and not so systems that use drones, data centers and hydroponics. Recently I came across several interesting articles on this topic. Probably, in the near foreseeable future, we will see new ways of cultivating plants and animals that previously seemed scientific (or not so) fiction. Okay, enough reasoning, let’s go.

Vertical farm, artificial intelligence from Nokia Bell Labs and AeroFarms

In the heart of New Arch, New Jersey, USA, there is

one of the most hi-tech farms

… And not only in America, but all over the world – it has no analogues. The fact is that arugula, cabbage, lettuce and other greens are grown here using artificial intelligence, drones and hydroponics. This farm is vertical – the plants are placed on multi-tiered towers that rise several meters above the floor.

Drones equipped with high-definition cameras flutter over this entire economy. Their task is to identify problems, including pests, plant diseases and other troubles. The advantage of this method of growing greens is the versatility of the farm. It can be placed wherever there is electricity and water. At the same time, a hydroponic vertical farm requires less water, energy, workers and, of course, pesticides.

Drones help the operator track the most remote corners of the farm without missing a single square meter. Moreover, the drones are connected with the AI ​​system, which provides the operator with great assistance. After all, drones and computers that control them never sleep, do not get tired, and do not go for a smoke break. Nokia Bell Labs and AeroFarms are behind all this. Nokia provides technology for analyzing and processing a huge amount of data, and AeroFarms – technology for growing plants.

This tandem uses real-time analytics, which makes it possible to immediately identify problems and track negative trends at the very beginning. Drones are watching millions of plants – the area of ​​a hydroponic vertical farm is very big. A bunch of parameters are monitored, including leaf and stem color, spotting, size, curvature, etc. An ordinary person, even a plant specialist, cannot simultaneously grasp and process as much information as the AI ​​of this farm processes.

The analysis system is hosted in the cloud, which allows you to get information about the state of the farm from anywhere in the world. Many systems including watering, lighting, etc. – are automated, so here the human role is minimal. Drones are not controlled by humans, but also by an AI system. She, in addition to controlling the device in flight, monitors the charge level of each flying assistant. The charge remains low – the drone is sent to the docking station to replenish energy.

As far as can be understood, a person is needed when a particular plant ripens. Harvesting is difficult to automate, so people are needed. At the same time, thanks to monitoring, farm employees always know where and what needs to be collected.

Digital Crossroads has created something similar. True, its goal is not vertical farms for cities, but the development of robotic greenhouses that can be used during the colonization of the Moon or Mars. So far, the area of ​​the greenhouse is small – only 400 m


, but much is not needed – it is unlikely that on the same Mars it will be immediately possible to plant hectares of “land areas” with cultivated plants. You will have to start small.

Hi-tech farms are a very interesting topic, but we have other articles, check it out – we are talking about:
→ Small “raspberries” in a large data center
→ Dynamic UPSs in data centers: how we installed Piller CPM300 double conversion
→ Disassembly of a rare beast from Nvidia – DGX A100

Lobsters, data centers and 24/7 monitoring

This project began to be implemented


… Data center operator Green Mountain has contracted with Norwegian Lobster Farm to breed lobster. Most lobster species are thermophilic, which means that the farm needs to either be located in a region with a high level of insolation, or to heat the reservoir where the wards live.

The Norwegians chose the second option. According to the terms of the agreement, the farm will receive heat from the DC1-Stavanger data center. Of course, not free of charge, but, in any case, the cost of the generated heat will be low. In any case, lower than if you had to spend expensive electricity or other resources to heat the reservoir.

At the same time, machine vision is used at the facility, which makes it possible to observe each inhabitant. As in the case of plants, the system evaluates various parameters of the lobster’s body as well as its behavior. All this helps to identify problems, if they arise, plus determine the maturity of the animal (well, yes, that is, to identify the moment when the lobster can be sent to a restaurant).

The technical work on the farm is performed by robots, so here too the human role is limited to observation. Perhaps people still catch crustaceans – it will be difficult for a robot to cope here.


Another farm, this time an aquaponic one. Here, work is carried out on two tiers – the upper, where cultivated plants grow, and the lower, water, where tilapia splash. It turns out almost waste-free production, where fish and plants form a kind of ecosystem in miniature.

The farm is small – only a few tens of square meters. It contains boxes with basil – one above the other in shelves, the height of which reaches 3 meters. Tilapia lives in special tanks, which are combined with boxes with the help of pipes. Special containers with bacterial culture are placed between them. In it, fish waste is converted into nitrate fertilizer.

It, in turn, is used to feed plants that grow faster. Moreover, the system cyclically uses about 90% of the incoming water. The system is controlled using “smart” technologies, although there are fewer of them here than in the previous two examples.

The authors of the project hope that their systems can be scaled by placing them in different cities. In this case, plants and fish can be sold in the nearest stores, the delivery cycle will be minimal, and the delivery time of the goods is measured in hours, not days or weeks.

All in all, gorgeous farms. What high-tech methods of growing plants and animals have you heard about? Share interesting examples in the comments?

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