Nokia to scale-up drone-mounted 5G-powered machine-vision farming solution
US farming company AeroFarms has recruited Nokia on a multi-year deal to supply private 5G, computer vision, machine learning, and autonomous drones. The pair are testing the technologies with current crop varieties, as part of an autonomous drone-mounted machine vision application connecting between a local private 5G and a central cloud-compute function.
The pair said they will scale the system to all of the New Jersey outfit’s existing and future indoor vertical farms, including new developments in Virginia in the US and Abu Dhabi in UAE.
The arrangement, a year old, has been extended beyond a proof-of-concept. Nokia Bell Labs, the Finnish vendor’s research arm, is supplying new tech to augment AeroFarms’ existing machine vision tools – in order to “track plant interactions at advanced levels”. It said the bundled solution will improve plant yields and quality, and make AeroFarms an “agriculture platform-and-capabilities organization dedicated to solving food and supply challenges”.
Nokia said its machine vision technology has enabled data capture of individual plants, using leaf size segmentation, quantification, and pixel-based scanning to identify consistency and variation. A statement said: “Going beyond what even the human eye can perceive, this state-of-the art imaging technology enables the gathering of immense insights about a plant including its leaf size, stem length, coloration, curvature, spotting, and tearing.”
The system uses on-site private 5G and cloud-based compute – “for low latency and high privacy in an on-premises network”. The industrial analytics capabilities can be deployed quickly and efficiently anywhere, said Nokia Bell Labs.
AeroFarms claims vertical farming yields 390 times more produce per square foot annually; the comparison is presumably with conventional farming. It also uses 95 percent less water, zero pesticides, and “local food options for communities”, further reducing the environmental impact of trucking and shipping.
A statement said: “This combination of innovative technologies allows AeroFarms to reach the next level of imaging insights that further enhance its capabilities as an industry leading operator of world-class, fully-connected smart vertical farms that grow the highest quality plants all year round.”
David Rosenberg, chief executive at AeroFarms, said: “We have developed the next-generation system that can image every plant every day in a cost-effective way at scale. This level of detailed imaging and insights helps us be better farmers by monitoring our plant biology dynamically and allowing us to course correct as needed to ensure the highest level of quality all year round.
“When I watch the drones autonomously imaging our plants, I am blown away by how this truly represents the power of harnessing leading-edge technologies and bringing brilliant problem solvers together from diverse groups to grow the best plants possible.”
Thierry Klein, vice president of integrated solutions at Nokia, said: “The fundamental technologies of this partnership are our strength, and vertical farming is just the beginning. With the AeroFarms platform, we are exploring the power of network driven intelligence for industrial outcomes. These capabilities can expand into a multitude of indoor industrial operations, including logistics, warehousing, distribution hubs, and manufacturing.”