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Ontario greenhouse funding supports projects in autonomous growing


April 14, 2021
By Greenhouse Canada

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Earlier this year, the Ontario government announced an investment of over $3.6 million in 12 projects to help develop new technologies, recover from the impact of COVID-19 and enhance greenhouse grower competitiveness and innovation.

One of these approved projects was for an initiative on autonomous greenhouse management, a collaboration between Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) and independent Dutch artificial intelligence specialist, Blue Radix.

According to the list of approved projects, this project is receiving $148,100 to customize Blue Radix’ autonomous greenhouse management system, Crop Controller, to the needs of Ontario growers.

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“Crop Controller is a service: data models and algorithms control the greenhouse installations 24/7, supported by off-site Autonomous Greenhouse Managers with in-depth knowledge about crops, energy and data. With autonomous steering of the greenhouse installations, the crop strategy is put into practice with artificial intelligence. Crop Controller is not developed to replace growers. The grower is still needed to define the crop strategy. Ultimately, they can manage more hectares and worry less about repetitive actions and routine thinking. The algorithms do the work for them in their daily operations,” says Ronald Hoek, CEO of Blue Radix.

Crop Controller is said to help to set-up a crop growth plan with optimal target conditions for energy, climate, irrigation, nutrient management, disease protection, and labour. “This project will demonstrate the autonomous system to help growers better understand its value and adopt this new technology in their operations to ultimately increase productivity and energy and labour efficiencies while maximizing production,” according to Ontario’s website.

This project is supported through phase two of the Greenhouse Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative (GCII), a cost-share program funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and delivered by the Agricultural Adaptation Council. 

We are very thankful to the Ontario government for the GCII funding of this project. It will help greenhouse businesses improve their productivity with adopting autonomous growing. Greenhouse owners are less dependent on crop experts, will have a higher operational profit while limiting their operational risks and usage of resources,” says Hoek.

According to a release from Blue Radix, OGVG will select three vegetable greenhouse locations in Ontario to participate in the project.

Great Lakes Greenhouses partners with Koidra and Harrow

The GCII also approved funding for a second project to help drive autonomous greenhouse production in Ontario.

Great Lakes Greenhouses Inc. has partnered with AI specialist Koidra Inc. and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Harrow Research and Development Centre.

Receiving $547,720, the project will be using “artificial intelligence to develop an autonomous grower technology that will enhance environmental sustainability, accelerate transition to year-round production, support crop diversification and improve long-term resiliency and competitiveness of the sector. The technology will allow greenhouse operators to remotely grow cucumbers and eggplant crops, reducing in-person contact and allowing them to manage more sites remotely,” according to the project description.

With files from Government of Ontario and Blue Radix