iUNU, a Seattle based company, believes that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be the key to combat increasing input prices, “razor” thin margins and skill variation between growers and labours. LUNA is a new system launched in August and is already boasting an order wait time of two years. LUNA is not meant to replace growers, but rather redesign the job at hand and allowing growers them to literally be in two places at once, work proactively throughout the greenhouse rather than reactively to arising situations. LUNA is almost aimed at making the operation more efficient and cutting down the number of hours needed to scout crops and inspect crops and greenhouses environmental conditions.
LUNA is designed to give you a total overview of your greenhouse and will allow growers to do a full scale check of their facility from the comfort of their desk. When an issue is identified by LUNA, growers can identify problem areas and assign employees to fix the problem as part of a daily schedule; optimising time.
“We want to be the grower’s best friend,” says Adam Greenberg, CEO of iUNU.
How does LUNA work?
LUNA starts by accumulating data from the moment it is installed in your greenhouse. Using 3D imagery and environmental scanners, LUNA measures plant growing conditions in real time. The system allows growers to inspect each individual plant, even each specific leaf on that plant, and can put in parameters that will alert the grower if the target is altered; these alerts can be viewed on any mobile device or computer. One of the best things about LUNA is that it can track the life of the plant. Growers can see the condition of the plant throughout its life and determine specific altering conditions that can be avoided or copied for the future.
“The ability to capture historical data with artificial intelligence will provide grower operations with a way to develop tribal knowledge in growing practices, to automate the production process in a way that is consistent and repeatable, no matter who comes or goes from the operation,” Greenberg says.
LUNA is used for proactive management through data analysis and synthesis. It is designed to help maximize crop quality and yield, and reduce pains such as operational costs, waste. If LUNA is used effectively, growers can use it to predict ready dates.
“All of the solutions we have seen so far focus on improving the grower’s reaction time to problems,” Greenberg says. “We reject the premise that ‘reactive mode’ is the natural state for growers. With the right technology, thoughtfully applied to give them better computer driven visibility, greenhouse operators can be as precise, proactive, and predictable as modern manufacturing operations.”
Technology has evolved over time
Developing LUNA has allowed the iUNU team to learn more extensive knowledge about the true realities of a greenhouse environment, and eradiate any myths or rumours that distract some growers from the end goal – “what works and what doesn’t” says Chief Technology Officer Matt King.
LUNA uses one traveling mounted robotic camera in each greenhouse that is lucky enough to host it. The camera moves long a track and can easily change directions via transfer stations. LUNA’s camera allows for high quality imaging, zoom and high resolution 3D imaging which makes it easier to track small changes in plants like bud development, nutritional issues or pest and disease symptoms. LUNA can track these changes in real time and detects minute changes, so if anything happens, good or bad, growers know about it instantly.
The sensors built into LUNA are more accurate than wall sensors and can track environmental changes much more precisely says King. As LUNA moves around, unlike a wall sensors, it is designed not to disrupt any sunlight or the environment of the crop that could cause a change in growth behaviour.
“It’s important to us to make the system fit in seamlessly, and not expect growers to change anything about their current layout,” Lewis says.
LUNA can be integrated into the growers ERP system as well as other automation equipment, should the grower request it. The AI is not designed to replace ERP or other systems, but to expand and compliment those already in place. LUNA can be customised for each operation.
The admirable thing about iUNU is that they’re committed to becoming a strong partner within the growing network. Due to the time it takes to set up LUNA and the systems it needs to work, iUNU invests a significant amount of time in the grower partner. In the future iUNU hopes to expand their greenhouse equipment to further assist growers.
“We don’t want to sell a widget — we want to sell support as a system,” Lewis says. “It’s about having your back. We’re all about building relationships with growers.”
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