Agriculture automation company Grownetics wins UoC IT competition

Posted on 20 Apr 2016 by Tim Brown
Indoor farming or controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) requires a great deal of attention to maintain the health of the plants - image courtesy of Adobe

Industrial automation has been around for decades, but up until recently its use in indoor agriculture has been minimal.

However an increased interest in indoor agriculture and controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) in the last few years has seen an increased level of technology being introduced and the development of companies such as Grownetics.

According to Grownetics, few individuals who are highly skilled commercial farmers have hardware and software development experience. Because of this knowledge gap, the company believes there are a lot of opportunities for designing and maintaining automation systems for CEA facilities.

Grownetics are working on a fully automated smart thinking garden, which uses machine learning to reduce costs, save resources, and improve overall yield overtime. The company has $156,000 in sales in the last six months and saved their first customer a massive 60% in operational costs.

CEO Eli Duffy said the following about the company’s future: “With a very small team and very little time we have built the most advanced grow automation system within indoor agriculture. We have an incredibly talented team which is laser focused on developing the most advanced artificial intelligence system in all of Agriculture. We will continue to innovate and execute and will not stop until we reach our goal, which is to grow the best food and medicine sustainably at scale.”

Grownetics was recently recognised for its innovative approach to farming and won the University of Colorado Venture Challenge Information Technology Competition.

Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado, George Deriso, said: “Working with [Grownetics] has been a real pleasure, as they are focused professionals who are passionate, committed and devoted to the success of their venture. They are open-minded, flexible and curious, making them ideal for leading and growing their business in a changing market.”

Why agriculture automation

Plants require a great deal of attention. Grownetics believes that by introducing a few simple forms of automation into a plant growing facility, operators can free themselves from tasks such as hand watering, nutrient mixing/feeding, data collection (checking pH, EC, DO), and many others. In turn this allows operators to not only save time but to increase the time spent on important non-automated tasks.

According to the company, when I was working in a commercial CEA greenhouse the most important task is performing tasks such as spotting nutrient deficiencies, potential pest infestations and potential infection sites. But during busy periods requiring a lot of manual labor, this is not always possible, which increases the chance for pest, fungal, and bacterial infestation.

Max Pollett, Master Grower with The Flower Collective, a premier wholesale cannabis cultivator in Colorado, knows the importance of efficiency and consistency when it comes to maintaining the company brand.

“We designed our facility and operations to be at the leading edge of efficiency and technology. What we were trying to do would never have been possible without the Grownetics sensing and automation platform to tie it all together. Their team went above and beyond to deliver a custom solution that matched our exact requirements.

“With our system design, full facility automation, and by tying together all sub-systems we’re seeing over 60% reduced system operating costs. In addition, high resolution sensing and tight controls allow our plant canopy to stay within 2 degrees fahrenheit and 3% relative humidity, that’s consistency.

“Finally, with the custom alerts and remote facility control I’m able to relax and sleep easy at night, my facility will literally call me if anything is out of range.”