Gardin’s technology provides an early indication of plant stress by measuring the photosynthetic performance of a plant growing in either a vertical farm or greenhouse. The system uses a robotic sensor to monitor the crop in real time.
In the Innovation Hub at the 2023 Royal Norfolk Show, the team from Gardin will be discussing how the system provides growers with insights into plant health that can easily be actioned, improving yields and quality, and lowering costs.
We caught up with Fabrizio Ticchiarelli, Lead Biologist at Gardin, ahead of the show to ask about recent developments.
Q. As your technology is giving actionable insights, would it be possible to use this information to automatically optimise the growing conditions – for example adjusting light levels, humidity etc?
Yes, we are definitely looking at responding to the insights in real time – we call it Real-time Response Agriculture.
By using the photosynthetic patterns in leafy crops, we have been able to automate watering strategies with great results. We can now create optimised watering recipes for the crop and routinely grow plants according to these specifications. The crops outperform those grown with static watering patterns.
We have used a similar approach to optimise light levels and these have given impressive results both in terms of yield and quality. Ultimately our systems will be able to provide similar recommendations with regards to parameters such as temperature and CO2.
We deliver our alerts both visually to the grower and as part of an API. This means that any grower already using a farm management system will be able to see these responses within their existing system.
Q. With your knowledge of photosynthetic pathways, are you able to gain insights into how to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis or to select varieties based on photosynthetic performance? For example, does increasing carbon dioxide levels and providing light at particular wavelengths boost growth?
It is an interesting area and we are starting to see users in breeding and biotech departments adopt our sensing to support the screening of varieties across a variety of parameters, from vigour, to stress tolerance and the ability to resist pathogens.
Photosynthesis is one of the first processes to respond when things are not right, and it is often predictive of overall performance of the crop. I believe it is a beautifully simple and elegant tool to speed up variety selection.
Q. Do you have any trials underway?
Yes, we have been running an 18-month research programme funded by Innovate UK called project SysSen.
In the project, we tested hundreds of light conditions and found very interesting relationships between the plant and light quality – specifically the ratio between certain wavelengths. These relationships were not just yield, but also nutritional content, flavour and appearance.
Very interestingly, not all crops responded in the same way, so it is a fantastic tool to customise crop appearance/flavour to customer demands.
Q What will you be demonstrating in the Innovation Hub?
We will have one of our sensors on the stand so that we can give interactive demonstrations of Gardin’s user interface and robotic sensor.