Month: September 2021

New Harvest Robot Introduced

Article sourced from Vertical Farm Daily

Since April, a multifunctional robot has been helping to harvest tomatoes in a Westland greenhouse. The robot is the result of the cooperation between greenhouse construction and greenhouse technology company and Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor Certhon and Denso, the Japanese automotive technology company that invested in the company last year.

“The robot moves in multiple directions to find the optimum position and route for harvesting. Thanks to smart cameras and lighting, the robot can harvest day and night. In the near future, the harvest robot can also scout the yield and measure the climate and health of the plants, including the functionality to protect from pests and diseases,” the Certhon team reveals.
The functionalities

Last year Certhon announced that a harvesting robot was being tested. The company started working on it right after Denso’s minority investment in Certhon.

The company chose a tomato robot since tomato is a large and popular crop worldwide and there are large growers who can make the necessary investments for this, Edwin Vanlaerhoven, Business Development Director at Certhon indicated at the time.
Edwin Vanlaerhoven, Business Development Director at Certhon shows how the Certhon Harvest Robot detects the fruits and senses which tomatoes are ready for harvesting thanks to advanced vision technology. “The robot shows what we are capable of when we combine smart technology, ambitious people, and horticultural knowledge,” he says.

The robot can detect tomatoes completely independently, cut them and transport them to crates. Deep learning technology makes the robot smarter with every harvest.

Eliminating uncontrollable external factors

“In order to make sure all of tomorrow’s people are fed, the world needs to come up with innovative and smart solutions now. Eliminating uncontrollable external factors such as weather conditions, plague or disease has always been on top of a farmer’s wish list, and for horticulture, the 20th-century greenhouse that counters these threats was a big step forward.”
“Now, with drastic changes happening in climate, demographics, and labor shortages, it’s time to bring the greenhouse system in line with the 21st century. With that objective in mind, the Certhon Harvest Robot is created. The robot simplifies the cultivation process, making the opportunity to grow food accessible to everyone. And this is just the beginning.”
Haruhiko Kato, Chief Technical Officer at Certhon adds: “Each crop is unique and the crops’ condition changes every day. Therefore it is very important that the robot’s motion adapts to any height, direction, and growth speed. By teaching the robot all these skills, we can really change the way we grow.”

Moving image

The presentation of the robot, with photos and moving images, was preceded by tests at greenhouse company AgriD, the largest greenhouse in Japan. The greenhouse was built by Certhon in cooperation with Denso and Asai Nursery Inc. and is specially equipped for the use of robots.

The coming period will be used to optimize the robot movement in consultation with growers and make it ready for practical introduction.
After tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers will follow, Edwin said last year, because the latter is a very labor-intensive crop. “We are starting in the Netherlands and Canada, in the Leamington region, because of the presence of many advanced growers there.”

When the robot will be ready to actually be put on the market is still unclear. The Certhon Harvest Robot is the company’s first external launch. Curious?

Check it out here: www.certhonharvestrobot.com.

For more information:
Certhon
ABC Westland 555
P.O. Box 90
2685 ZH Poeldijk, Netherlands
www.certhon.com

Aphids Eliminated With Organic Nanotechnology in PureCrop1, U.C. Study Shows

As an all-in-one agricultural formula, Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor PureCrop1 is revolutionizing the agriculture industry with nanotechnology and clean colloidal chemistries. Made from seven plant-based, organic ingredients, PureCrop1 efficiently eliminates sap-sucking pests, molds, & mildews, boosts plant health, and more effectively delivers nutrients than water alone.

The Pure Results

A U.C. Davis study solidified PureCrop1 as an effective control for aphids when they concluded the results of the organic formula against four common aphids.

After performing the study, Brook C. Murphy, Ph.D., U.C. Davis entomologist, stated, “Overall, the results of these evaluations provide encouraging evidence that PureCrop1 could be developed into an effective, reliable and easy-to-use commercial insecticide against aphid pests.”

A single application of PureCrop1 at a low rate of 0.66% v/v sufficiently eliminated all aphids from the plants in 24 to 36 hours. The tests also revealed that the organic formula is effective under a broad range of conditions in home and commercial applications as a pest control tool and proved easy to mix with no visible residue left behind.

The nanotechnology-derived solution controls aphids and other sap-sucking insects in all plant environments, including greenhouses, hydroponics, and indoor gardens. It can eliminate all types of aphids, including the ants that tend them, the honeydew they excrete, and the mold caused by the honeydew.

PureCrop1 also takes pride in being friendly to the environment, kids, pets, & even beneficial insects. The proprietary, science-driven formulation process delivering clean, sustainable, yet potent results is what distinguishes PureCrop1 from any other product on the market, making it a true trailblazer for the future of agriculture.

Find out more by visiting PureCrop1 at booth 4002 during Indoor Ag-Con or visit www.purecrop1.com

Notes From the Field: Evofactor Enhances Microgreens Production

The mighty microgreen has become a chef and consumer darling over the last few years because they’re nutrient dense and pack a flavor punch. Growers looking to get the most out of each tray have a new way to meet demand.

In a field trial with a multi-state, commercial microgreens grower and Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor, Verano365, introduced their nutrient adjuvant, Evofactor®. The grower tested the fertilizer enhancer on four different varieties of microgreens to help boost yield per tray.

In basil, red sorrel, cilantro, and mild microgreens, the grower applied 3.5oz of Evofactor for every 1lb of actual Nitrogen to the stock tank. At the conclusion of the trial:

 Basil yield was up 8.3%
 Red Sorrel gained 28.3%
 Mild variety increased 16.9%
 Cilantro put on 13.3% more yield

The growing cycle ranged from nine days for some varieties, up to 21 days for others. Across the board, the product enhanced tray weight.

Herbert Rabalais, president of Verano365 shared, “In working with microgreen producers, we’ve seen excellent results from low use rates of Evofactor. Growers have shared that they’ve noticed better germination rates when using our product on microgreens, producing denser flats, and ultimately seeing trays that weigh more than the trays produced with standard growing practices.”

Evofactor is formulated with Verano365’s OpusMAX®, a carrier that creates supramolecular structures of the active ingredients in fertilizers, ultimately delivering highly concentrated nutrients to the plant.

Rabalais went on to say, “It’s easy for a grower to see a return on investment with Evofactor. If they can produce 8 to 25% more microgreens for pennies per tray, they can quickly do that math to see how the product will help maximize their profit per square foot.”

Evofactor is registered in all 50 states and is available from distribution partners: BFG Supply Co., BWI Companies, and Griffin Greenhouse Supplies.

Conviron and Argus: key players in Medicago’s COVID-19 plant derived vaccine development

Winnipeg-based Conviron, a leading supplier of controlled environments for plant production, is pleased to announce the award of a major project involving the expansion of Medicago’s vaccine manufacturing facilities in Durham NC. Medicago, a biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Quebec City, is moving forward in their participation to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by building additional infrastructure for the development and manufacturing of plant-derived vaccines – a process that produces a high volume of vaccine in shorter production timelines.

Located in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, the facility expansion features several customized controlled environmental rooms from Conviron, which are used in the manufacturing process for plant germination and plant expression of virus-like particles. Conviron’s sister company amd Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor, Argus Controls, is providing the controls and automation of all the plant-growing spaces in the expanded facility. The decision to use Conviron stemmed from the relationship that started back in 2012, when Conviron first provided plant growth rooms to Medicago’s facility in Quebec.

In an interview with Martin Cash (for the Winnipeg Free Press)¹ a spokeswoman for the company said Medicago hopes to have enough data showing the efficacy and safety of the vaccine by the end of June and then would be able to start production shortly after that.

Cash also had to opportunity to review this topic with John Proven, president of Conviron, who said it’s one of the most important projects for Conviron this year. Proven said Conviron is glad to be part of a Canadian effort to battle the pandemic.

You can read the original “Local company key player in homegrown vaccine” article published by visiting the Winnipeg Free Press website.

Kurt M. Aken Joins AmplifiedAg to Lead Expansion of its Vertical Roots Business

In a sign that vertical farming is reaching an inflection point, AmplifiedAg hires produce industry veteran to lead growth for its flagship brand, Vertical Roots

Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor AmplifiedAg, Inc. a leading platform in the fast-growing category of hydroponic vertical farming – announces the hiring of industry veteran Kurt M. Aken to lead the growth of its Vertical Roots brand. Aken joins as Executive Vice President, Business Development following a successful 24-year tenure with two of the most recognized consumer produce brands in the United States – Fresh Express and Chiquita Brands International. Aken will be focused on supporting and extending the Vertical Roots hydroponic produce brand, which is currently sold in more than 1,700 retail locations in the Southeast United States.

“I, like many others in the produce industry, have been watching the evolution of vertical farming with intense interest,” said Aken. “Vertical farming represents an important part of the future of sustainable food supply and produce capacity, and I’m inspired by AmplifiedAg’s approach and leadership.”

“AmplifiedAg’s best-in-class technology, modular and scalable construction capability,and unrivaled growing expertise is the foundation of Vertical Roots success, and makes the most reliable partner for retailers and wholesalers looking for the best produce possible,” Aken added.

Vertical Roots currently operates hydroponic container farms in Charleston, SC, Columbia, SC and Atlanta,GA, with more farm expansions on the horizon. Since January 2020, Vertical Roots has grown its retail footprint 272% and now offers its lettuce in approximately 1,700 grocery stores across the Southeast. The hydroponic produce line includes a variety of salad mixes and Green Butter, Green Oak, and Green Leaf Living Lettuces. The brand also recently introduced one of the first ever hydroponic varieties of large-leaf Romaine.

Vertical Roots produce is grown in hydroponic farms constructed from repurposed shipping containers, and leverages AmplifiedAg’s proprietary software and hardware to optimize growing cycles and insure premier quality and consistency. Farms are built to USDA and FDA food safety standards, and the hydroponic growing method means no soil, no pesticides, and more nutritious, clean, longer lasting produce.

During Aken’s career at Fresh Express and Chiquita Brands, he led the corporate account team that serviced leading grocery retailers across the United States. Aken was responsible for cultivating new business opportunities in nontraditional
produce channels including foodservice, club and drug and discount store segments, as well as theme parks and cruise lines.

Andrew Hare, co-founder and general manager of Vertical Roots, said, “Kurt’s extensive industry experience, including retail and customer insights, consumer trends, and supply chain management, will help us further accelerate the growth of our Vertical Roots brand. He is a recognized leader in the category and we are proud that he has chosen to join our company and work with us to advance our mission.”

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About AmplifiedAg, Inc.
AmplifiedAg, Inc.™ is a leader in the indoor agriculture category focused on empowering a scalable, resilient, and sustainable food supply and providing global populations with access to clean, fresh, and healthy produce. The company manufactures modular and scalable indoor farms using refurbished shipping containers and advanced hydroponic systems controlled by its proprietary hardware and seed-to- sale SaaS-based.

AmplifiedAg’s flagship brand Vertical Roots is the largest hydroponic container farm in the world and currently sells its produce through more than 1,700 grocery stores and numerous distributors.

In addition to powering its flagship brand Vertical Roots, AmplifiedAg provides holistic indoor farming solutions to sustainably grow and distribute food anywhere in the world. Learn more at www.amplifiedaginc.com.

Re-Envisioning Urban Farming With Direct To Consumer Urban Hubs

Q & A With Brick Street Farms CEO Shannon O’Malley

is excited to welcome Brick Street Farms CEO Shannon O’Malley to our speaker roster for the October 4-5, 2021 edition at the Hilton Orlando. Based in St. Petersburg, FL, O’Malley and her growing company are on a mission to “ignite a sustainable farm revolution by dramatically reshaping the global population’s ability to access clean, healthy food.” We caught up with Shannon to learn more about the multi-million investment Florida agribusiness leader Lykes Bros. has recently made in Brick Street Farms; her company’s THRIVE Containers division, and its non-profit Desert Farms Foundation.

Read our Q&A  here AND learn more next month in Orlando as Shannon joins our “Women in Ag” panel discussion

Congratulations on the recent news that Lykes Bros. Inc has made a significant investment in Brick Street Farms! What does this mean for your company and how does it play into your mission.

Brick Street Farms could not be more thrilled about the investment from Lykes Bros. Inc. We both inherently believe that within the agriculture space there is room for traditional farming models and urban community models. With our Lykes Bros.Inc. investment, Brick Street Farms will be bringing the first large-scale direct to consumer urban community model to the forefront: Brick Street Farms Urban Hubs.

Brick Street Farms Urban Farm Hubs

With this model, we have the privilege of contributing to the local economy by empowering and investing in our urban communities in as many ways as possible. We provide nutritional and medicinal food that has not been compromised by traditional agriculture supply chain issues, grown on-site, in one of the most advanced environmentally sustainable arenas in agriculture. With harvest to home in 24 hours, we take pride in leading the way in the evolution of how people connect to their food. We are growing 16-20 acres of farmland in 1/3 acre lots and could not be more excited. Brick Street Farms is defining what urban agriculture is with our urban hubs. These hubs are the truest form of bringing mass food production to the point of consumption. And the best way to sustainably feed more people from urban locations.

From a financial standpoint, this model is scalable, replicable, and sustainable. Below is a graph from the Artemis State of Indoor Farming 2020. We have added the Brick Street Farms direct to consumer model to this graph as shown below:

 Artemis State of Indoor Farming 2020

What was the rationale behind the launch of your THRIVE division and what makes your containers different than others on the market today?

When my husband, Brad, and I started Brick Street Farms, we had no idea how quickly our business would scale. With this scale and both of us having backgrounds in engineering, the obvious next step was to design and manufacture our own containers. As we thought through the designs, there were key areas that we knew needed improvements. Our main objective was, and still is, to build containers for growers, by growers. The maximization of plant sites was important, so we added a sixth row of channels and turned other excess space into plant sites. We significantly reduced the amount of components in the container that require maintenance.

Brick Street Farms Container

Our THRIVE Containers provide a one pump, one reservoir, one dosing station system for the complete grow cycle. Improving water sanitation through the use of nanobubble technology was a no brainer because it cleanses the water and eliminates toxins so we don’t have to use chemicals for cleansing. Those are just some of the ways our THRIVE Containers are different from those on the market today.

Tell us about the Brick Street Farms membership model and how it plays into both your business growth plan as well as the support of your overall mission.

We knew fairly early on that the only financially successful and sustainable model in this space is a direct to consumer model. That’s why we had to design the best in class containers in order to build the first of its kind direct to consumer Brick Street Farms urban hubs. Our membership program is similar to a gym with both individual memberships and corporate level memberships. This provides a recurring stream of revenue and is not a CSA model. Our customers are very community driven, hyper-local and support advanced environmental sustainability. Introducing the membership model was just a perfect way for them to connect with us and for us to connect with them and it supports the part of our mission which focuses on being good to our community and planet Earth.

Can you tell us about your non-profit Desert Farms Foundation – why you started it and what you hope to accomplish through it?

Desert Farms FoundationDesert Farms FoundationBringing our Desert Farms Foundation to life has been such a neat experience. The foundation is really growing faster than we expected. We don’t even have the Desert Farms Foundation website live yet, however, we have received a great kick-start to our operations budget and are already delivering to three major non-profit food organizations. It’s really important to recognize that we are a start-up and to be able to bring a non-profit to life in such a quick amount of time is super commendable and not easy. We all have so much on our plates and I am so proud that we got this off the ground and I look forward to witnessing the impact this foundation makes by working to provide nutritional wellness for ALL.

Learn more about Shannon and Brick Street Farms by visiting their website here.