Talking Automated Environmental Controls With Michael Heaven of Argus Controls

Stock Greenhouse

During Indoor Ag-Con next week, Argus Controls VP and General Manager Michael Heaven will lead the session, “Automated Control Systems” from 11:30 am – noon on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, as part of our Grow Equipment track.  We checked in with him to get a sneak preview of  some of the points he’d be covering during his presentation

Q: What areas of environmental controls do you think indoor farmers are overlooking?

A: In short, plant-centric controls, especially in large production facilities.  Michael_Heaven_Argus_ControlsMost greenhouses have plant-centric controls and measurement at the plant canopy, but what we see as indoor facilities start to scale larger is that operators tend to go with building management controls, which are developed , of course, for people, not plants.  As such, these systems tend to manage the building based only on measurements of temperature and humidity without considering what the plants do when you feed them, water them or turn out the lights.

We need to look at controls from the plant’s perspective.  We water and feed plants to a schedule, but not necessarily to what the plant needs. That’s where automated controls come in. The opportunity is in measuring the plant inputs and outputs and coming up with ways to feed and water it to maximize yield  —  while maintaining the environment in an optimal state to prevent plant stress. 

When we feed and water the plants, it is possible to model the response of the plant and adjust the environment to minimize the increase in humidity that stresses the plant.  In the case of light in greenhouses, we open and close shutters and turn on and off lights to maintain the light level at optimal levels over the day.  With LED lighting in indoor grow spaces, we can control intensity and spectrum depending on the growth phase of the plant.

Our session will cover what automated controls bring to the grower, how they are used, how to pick the right environmental control solution, the key considerations, why plant-centric controls are so important, common mistakes made and some success stories.  

Q: What are you hoping to get out of your participation at this year’s Indoor Ag-Con?

Here at Argus, we’ve been focused on reliability, flexibility and service throughout our 30+ year history in the control technology space.  What we’re seeing is demand for machine learning, optimization and value-add services beyond the traditional horticultural grower.   We’re looking forward to interacting with growers and other industry members to share ideas and challenges they’re facing and how we can all work  together to the betterment of the industry.