A PROJECT led by a Bristol-based company has been awarded £757,151 from Innovate UK. 

LettUsGrow, in collaboration with Fotenix, Rothamsted Research, CHAP, and Vertically Urban, has developed an Advanced Crop Dynamic Control (ACDC) project. 

The aim of ACDC is to develop energy efficient and sustainable indoor farming systems, using image-based analysis, AI and software that will optimise the environment in which produce is grown. This will be based on the plant health and dynamic market environments. 

Funding for the project has been awarded by Innovate UK from the Novel Low Emission Food Production Systems competition. 

ACDC's objective is to tackle the innefficiences in the Total Controlled Environment Agriculture (TCEA) landscape in the UK. LettUs Grow has said energy is one of the largest costs for TCEA, and so the consortium is looking to pioneer growing methods that optimise environmental control efficiencies, including lighting, irrigation, and nutrient supply. These improvements will address contributors to the TCEA carbon footprint. 

The project will utilise an integrated spectral imaging system coupled with an AI-based plant screening technology, designed by Fotenix, to measure crop physiological status.

Charles Veys, Fontenix CEO, said: “Farms use our cameras to detect pest and disease, so why not use this to follow recipe evolution across economy or premium recipes? This project will fast-track collaboration between key suppliers into an industry-ready package at such a pivotal time for energy and food security.”

The data will then help to decide on light intensity, composition and energy management, which will be controlled by the software platform, Ostara (originally developed by LettUs Grow). 

Adam Waterman, chief technical officer of Ostara, added: “It’s exciting to see how Ostara can be used as the gateway linking AI to farming systems. Because Ostara seamlessly plugs into farming controls - interfacing with lighting, irrigation, fertigation and environment systems - when sensors detect plant stress, Ostara has the potential to utilise Fotenix’s AI data to dynamically adjust controls to align plant health with energy-usage.”

The consortium spearheading this initiative, includes LettUs Grow, alongside two technology companies—Fotenix and Vertically Urban. Collaborating with them are notable research institutes: CHAP (a Research Technology Organisation), and Rothamsted Research (an academic partner).

"Rothamsted Research is looking forward to working with partners to develop energy efficient , sustainable indoor farming systems," said Dr Jane Ward, principal research scientist at Rothamsted Research.

"The integration of image-based analysis and AI to optimise the growing environment will help to optimise the growing conditions, whilst reducing the energy requirements, crucial to lowering UK emissions. Further, linking metabolite data from the plants will allow an integrated evaluation of the plants health and nutritional status.”