Data, and lots of it; that’s the key to Autogrow’s innovative ag-tech business.
The New-Zealand-headquartered company claims over 32 trillion data points flow through its systems each year, which are collected from a vast array of fresh produce crops grown in greenhouses, urban farms and protected cropping systems across 40 countries.
Each data point is sourced from one of Autogrow’s control systems, which include Autogrow’s MultiGrow, Aphaea, IntelliDose and IntelliClimate. Depending on the system being run, its platform can collect and collate microclimate data every five seconds, including air temperature, humidity, light levels, CO2 and nutrient levels, as well as local macroclimate data.
While data might be king, Autogrow CEO Darryn Keiller says what you do with it is equally as important.
Using its own processing algorithm, Autogrow has filtered and stored over 6bn data points to date, which have been ingested by its data pipeline and analysed by its team of scientists for the benefit of its customers.
Keiller says the information provides a true reflection of how crops are responding to their environment and what the optimum levels are for increasing yields.
“There are a few factors that can’t be controlled with crop production, but by gaining knowledge and understanding of those factors you do have control over, it’s really the first step to true innovation,” he adds.
A key element in Autogrow’s model has been the creation of its own cloud-based platform, Autogrow Cloud.
“It’s not a very scientific name but it’s a highly sophisticated platform that will serve up all of the products we put on it,” Keiller says.
IntelliGrow – a platform designed to allow growers to manage a crop anytime, anywhere and on any operating system – is the first product that serves off Autogrow Cloud.
Accessible from any mobile device, IntelliGrow’s application programming interface (API) provides users with access to their IntelliDose and IntelliClimate control systems remotely, allowing them to set new data points and monitor and manage their crops.
“Our IntelliGrow utilises an open API, which means it can integrate with any third-party systems including lighting, sensors and machine vision systems,” explains Autogrow’s chief technology officer Jeffrey Law.
“We have also ensured enterprise level data security of our cloud platform for peace of mind.”
A key advantage of the IntelliGrow platform is its ability to offer data in real time. The high frequency of the polling data means any disruption to the production process can be quickly identified, alerting the grower and ensuring a swift resolution.
“Things can turn bad really quick,” Keiller says. “There’s no point getting an alert the next day if the water has been shut off because everything is gone by the time they receive it.
“Our data is in real time. It’s the only system in the world that can do real-time data for indoor growers, period.”
While the automated capabilities of IntelliGrow are already delivering benefits to Autogrow’s customers, Keiller says the company is only scratching the surface of its potential when it comes to collating and utilising data.
“Right now, what the industry has is automation,” he says. “What Autogrow is doing is moving to autonomous. We’re moving to a point where the system governs and adapts itself in a changing environment.
“The first thing to make that happen is we need massive amounts of data. That data then needs to be put through a process that converts the raw data into useable information for the system to learn.”
The ambitious goal is seemingly born out of Autogrow’s vision to develop technological outcomes that educate the market and empower the growers.
“We operate in a space where if we build it, they will come,” Keiller says. “Not everyone knows what they will need, so we’ve got to come up with some original approaches to producing products in indoor environments that the market hasn’t considered. Not everything we do will work, but we’ve got to try some stuff.”