Artechno Grow Systems is an automated vertical farm supplier engaged in developing vertical hydroponic cultivation systems. Art van Rijn founded Artechno Grow Systems in the late 80s to innovate how farmers grow by thinking outside the box. It started with horticulture but expanded into other fields like water techniques, automation, robotics, and vertical farming. Artechno Grow Systems focuses on turn-key automated vertical farming and deep flow technique systems to become a leading global supplier of profitable, growing technology in vertical farming. We recently sat down with Rudy Van den Berg, the Commercial Manager of Artechno, to talk about artificial intelligence and robotics’ role in tomorrow’s agriculture.
As Artificial Intelligence improves daily, farms worldwide implement software and machinery to enhance growth and efficiency. Currently, Artechno’s AVF+ solution is already fully automated using robotics. Artechno envisions a future where autonomous factories are the norm, utilizing data generated through experience to enhance productivity. However, the degree of automation, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence will be tailored to the specific business case. As Rudy explained, over-automation will be avoided in cases where it is not necessary or profitable.
Automating vegetable and plant production started well before the pandemic, as labor has been a significant challenge in this industry for years. The need for further automation to address this issue is evident. There is a shortage of skilled workers in many production areas and countries, and the work is often repetitive and one-sided. Artechno has been a firm believer in the intelligent automation of these processes for over four decades. While the pandemic may have accelerated this process, it was already underway.
The scarcity of skilled growers often leads to mistakes and lower yields in the vertical farming industry. However, a fully automated system with a precise growing recipe can alleviate this issue. With consistent growing conditions and no external factors affecting the process, Artechno can ensure a reliable and uniform output of fresh, high-quality vegetables daily. Moreover, their AVF technology has demonstrated an extended shelf life of the products compared to those grown in open fields, leading to reduced waste along the value chain.
As cutting-edge advancements and technologies in robotics and automation get developed in the CEA sector, Artechno plans to implement as much of it as possible. “The use of vision technology will become more prevalent in plant assessments and factory processing, leading to improved plant quality and uniformity beyond the capabilities of human labor. Furthermore, regarding robot interaction in our AVF+ solutions, we strive for responsible automation without excessive implementation. Ultimately, humans will remain in charge of the machines, but as technology advances, machines and robots will become increasingly intelligent and contribute to overall performance.” expressed Rudy.
The use of robotics and automation in controlled environment agriculture has expanded the range of crops that can be harvested. While challenges remain in automation, crop maintenance, and logistics for certain crops, such as strawberries, Artechno is confident that these issues can be solved through investment and continued research and development.
To limit the impact of energy inflation on their facilities, Artechno uses Highly energy efficient modular LEDs. “Our smart software is designed to control the climate in the cell in the most energy-efficient way possible. Therefore, the waste heat produced from the cell can be reused in other parts of the Factory. Furthermore, we are constantly researching the efficient use of energy in our cultivation recipes.” Mentioned Rudy.
Regarding the argument that the increasing use of robotics will destroy jobs and certain portions of the economy, Rudy remarked, ” Many areas that require food production suffer from a shortage of skilled labor. In such cases, robotics and automation can be viable solutions. However, we view the issue from a different perspective. With Agtech advancing rapidly, it presents exciting challenges for individuals of all ages interested in cultivating healthy and sustainable vegetables. We can attract individuals to horticulture who may not have considered it before – the combination of state-of-the-art technology with sustainable plant production is the future, and many people are eager to contribute to this field. Therefore, Agtech has the potential to create job opportunities.”
Please read the full version of our editorial: The Rise of Robotics In CEA.
Image provided by Artechno