As the world’s population continues to grow, global food production must increase by around 70% by 2050 to ensure that everyone has access to food. With traditional farmland decreasing due to pollution and climate change, controlled environment agriculture (CEA) is seen as a way to ensure future food security. UK-based agri-tech manufacturer, Vertically Urban, has partnered with global tech leader, Microsoft, to develop an AI-based CEA control platform called HORISS.
Feeding the world’s population is a challenge that will only get harder as our population is set to increase to around 9.8 billion by 2050. With traditional farmland loss at an alarming rate due to pollution and climate change, there is a need for innovative ways to produce food. One such method is Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), which improves the efficiency and quality of growing crops. UK-based Agri-tech manufacturer Vertically Urban, and global tech leader Microsoft, are working together to develop Vertically Urban’s AI-based CEA control platform HORISS. HORISS aims to be an intelligent control system that autonomously monitors and reacts to environmental and physical changes within the growing area, ensuring crops are grown to exact specifications using the resources precisely required.
In an interview with Jens Hansen, General Manager (EMEA) of Data & AI at Microsoft, and Andrew Littler, Vertically Urban’s CEO, discussed the partnership between the two companies and how AI has the power to accelerate the new farming revolution in controlled environment agriculture and secure adequate food supplies for future generations. Microsoft believes that technology is a powerful force for good and has the potential to create novel solutions to many of humanity’s issues. Food security is a relevant topic today, with factors such as drought, climate change, and population growth changing the dynamic of the way we grow and produce our food.
The HORISS software monitors the growth process in the plant and adjusts environmental parameters using AI technology that incorporates sensors, camera vision, algorithms, and data analysis. The more data HORISS harvests and includes into the model, the earlier it’ll be able to detect issues and the more effectively it’ll be able to remedy them promptly, reducing waste of resources or failure of the whole crop. In a nutshell, companies are looking for an optimization that maximizes crop yield while minimizing resource use, and AI helps with that optimization.
Microsoft’s AI capability will excel in the processing and analysis of the vast amounts of data collected by the HORISS system. The aim is to identify trends and patterns in the data that allow us to not only recreate conditions that result in the most desirable end crop but eventually to automatically spot and remedy issues occurring during the growth cycle, crucially, well before they would be spotted by a human resulting in minimal impact on the final harvest.
Controlled Environment Agriculture and AI have the power to play a pivotal role in ensuring food security for future generations. The partnership between Vertically Urban and Microsoft shows how technology can be used to address the issue of feeding the world’s growing population. By optimizing crop yield while minimizing resource use, we can ensure that everyone has access to the fundamental resources needed to thrive both now and in the future.
Image provided by Vertically Urban