Out of the gate this year, we’re seeing an uptick in the number of new players in the SmartAg and Precision Agriculture spaces as farmers in the fields are deploying everything from self-driving tractors to tracking earrings for cattle that monitor herd health and detect cows in heat.
But what’s happening inside – way beyond trendy vertical farming – may turn out to bring some of the greatest value to a world where food insecurity is on the rise, and the opioid crisis is driving investment by large pharma in certifiably high-quality, medical-grade cannabis.
Only with the help of IoT platforms, sensors and automated systems have grow facilities been able to not only improve the quality and nutrition of food, plants, and herbs, but reduce costs, driving up productivity and above all, generating streams of data that can be used in real time – and overtime – to making fresh food and ingredients ever better.
This week, three tech companies – Veea, Trilogy, and Microclimates – unveiled an integrated solution that has already demonstrated what a “full stack” Precision Agriculture operation can do on a large, multi-generation family farm with massive greenhouses in Ohio. Under development for over a year, the companies announced the general availability of the system in the context of a predicted high growth market
According to a 2022 market research report by MarketsandMarkets, the precision farming market is expected to grow from USD 8.5 billion in 2022 to USD 15.6 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 7.9%, while Insight Partners is estimating the global precision agriculture market will grow even larger and more quickly, USD 9.02 billion in 2021 to USD 19.72 billion by 2028; it is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 11.8% from 2022 to 2028.
Why all this growth? Follow the money that is out to solve for massive threats to food security, an economic downturn that will continue to threaten increasingly fragile bottom lines for farmers and growers, catastrophic weather events (droughts, floods, fires and artic blasts) which can wipe out hundreds of thousands of acres of crops in days.
According to their joint announcement, Trilogy Networks gives enterprises a new way to collect, compute, transport and protect data at the edge to improve operational efficiency and lower costs, while Veea provides a unified computing and communications fabric that enables any cloud to any endpoint and device at the edge.
And while Veea and Trilogy have been working together successfully for years (including in the context of the Rural Cloud Initiative (RCI), they have added layers of intelligence through real time data collection and computing at the edge with software modules that connect to sensors and run analytics that drive automated control of everything from the typical temperature and lighting elements in indoor grow facilities to measuring water, nutrients, possible disease and more, and indicate when plants should be moved, harvested or otherwise processed after growing in the best possible microenvironment.
The packaged solution has been implemented with forward-thinking Hurst Farms & Greenery, a Westboro, Missouri based business that operates 30 greenhouses, comprising 130,000 square feet under cultivation. Hurst also operates over 1,000 acres of corn and soybean crops.
With Trilogy’s award-winning FarmGrid solution, enabled by Veea and enhanced by Microclimates, operators of indoor cultivation and farming, especially for high-value crops, benefit from private enterprise wireless connectivity (including 5G), wireless controllers that can be programmed to turn heaters and vents off and on, based on rules, and readings from temperature sensors which instrument greenhouse environments and feed autonomous systems.
Microclimate’s technology brings in a dashboard which gives users full control and allows them to set rules.
The Veea Platform, including indoor VHE-10 and outdoor VHH-10 VeeaHub models, provides farm-wide secure and meshed Wi-Fi and multi-protocol (Bluetooth, Zigbee, & LoRa) IoT connectivity, which facilitates the collection of temperature and humidity data within the Greenhouses and provides the data to the Microclimates edge controller platform.
“Trilogy brought us a complete greenhouse automation solution, integrating Veea’s edge and cloud computing and orchestration capabilities, and Microclimate’s software and sensors system fully integrated, which simplified the initial implementation and ongoing monitoring and management,” said Blake Hurst. “We quickly recognized savings and are now scaling up given the benefits – healthier plants, increased revenue, energy and water cost savings, and productivity gains given the automation and ability to remotely monitor and control all our greenhouses.”
“Working together with the teams at Hurst Greenery, Veea and Microclimates has been a tremendous experience,” said Venky Swaminathan, co-founder and CTO at Trilogy. “Converging wireless connectivity, cloud capability, device interactivity and data security into a digital experience is a team sport, and we couldn’t have had a better team in place to imagine, engineer, deploy and scale this proven system. We look forward to supporting this generational, family business for years and decades to come, delivering long-term value through better business outcomes.”
“Veea is honored to have contributed to this revolutionary solution,” said Mark Tubinis, Chief Commercial Officer, Veea. “Together, we are unlocking significant, sustainable value through the digital transformation of greenhouse operations which is impacting the ability for businesses like Hurst Greenery to improve yields, assure quality, and operate profitably. With precision horticulture solutions, and with real time data leveraged along with automation to ensure predictable growth, farmers can do more for less, and grow their businesses even as they grow premium plants and produce. We look forward to partnering with this extraordinary assembly of companies to further advance the precision horticulture and agriculture industries.”
“Our platform is ideal for this scenario,” said Neda Vaseghi, CEO at Microclimates. “With modular and open software and sensor applications, we instrument the environmental automation for everything from lighting to irrigation, nutrient dosing, predictive alerting, and data-driven solutions. Given the global need for food security and safety, and the increasing importance of indoor farming, especially in the regions hardest-hit by climate change including droughts, floods, wildfires and more, this team has built and proven a repeatable solution that can make a world of difference in the years to come.”
The World Bank recently stated, “The effects of climate change are impossible to ignore, particularly as record-breaking temperatures, tides and weather events wreak havoc across the globe. Worldwide, 12 million hectares of land valuable to agriculture are lost every year, and global agriculture production will need to increase by 70% to meet the demand of an expanding population. It’s no surprise that we are seeing steady growth, investment and, most importantly, innovation in the agtech market, including the space industry.”