Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is organising an international challenge to boost vegetable production using artificial intelligence and autonomous greenhouses. The challenge is sponsored by Tencent, Holdings Limited, a Chinese multinational investment holding conglomerate whose subsidiaries specialise in various Internet-related services and products, entertainment, AI and technology both in China and globally. The goal of the challenge is to produce a cucumber crop within 4 months with a high level of production and a high resource use efficiency.
The world population is growing and consumers are demanding more fresh, healthy products, such as vegetables and fruits, which are sustainably produced. Greenhouse production is a very efficient way to produce fresh vegetables and fruits with a high content of vitamins and minerals on a small production area; ideal for production close to large cities!
High production volumes can be reached in greenhouses, which are typically up to 10 times higher than in open field. At the same time, greenhouse production is much more water efficient compared to open field production. Recent research results of WUR have shown that in extremely controlled greenhouses only 5 litres of water is used to produce 1 kg of tomato. The controlled environment enables the reduction of pesticide use to a minimum leading to the production of safe products without residues.
In the future even more greenhouses will be needed to produce our food. For that to happen, the ‘green thumb’ and the knowledge and experience of a grower is essential. At the same time, there is a lack of skilled workers in many countries worldwide.
Currently, significant advances are being made in automation, information technology and artificial intelligence (AI). Automated information and AI can help the grower to oversee all the information needed and to make better, complex decisions. Could AI be able to outperform the human controlled greenhouse production in the future?
Wageningen University & Research and its sponsor would like to challenge computer scientists and horticultural experts to form multidisciplinary teams to both challenge themselves as well as the state-of-the-art in human operated greenhouse production in order to make a large step toward the Autonomous Greenhouse. If the capabilities of an AI driven greenhouse can be demonstrated, it will imply a significant opportunity to drive horticultural productivity while reducing resource use and management complexity. AI might help us live healthier lives and make it possible to produce more vitamin rich food in greenhouses for growing human populations.
What is the goal?
The goal of the challenge is to produce a cucumber crop within 4 months with a high level of production and a high resource use efficiency. For that, selected teams will get the possibility to operate a greenhouse compartment at the greenhouse facilities of WUR in Bleiswijk, The Netherlands. Teams need to achieve the goal by growing the crop remotely controlled, supported by measured values of greenhouse climate and crop development and also webcam footage.
The teams will have to make choices with respect to the control settings in order to control the crop growth remotely. They also can add their own sensors/camera’s to generate additional information. Each team will be able to extract necessary data from the greenhouse compartment and add their own ICT/models/machine learning algorithms in order to decide on the control settings for the next day/period. They will send the control settings back to the system (the greenhouse climate computer) in order to control the actuators automatically or send instructions for crop handling in order to reach the goal. WUR will continuously measure pre-defined performance criteria per compartment and share them with each team and the public.
Who can join?
Participants can be students, experts, start-ups and companies. Wageningen University & Research are looking for multi-disciplinary teams, combining the following expertise: ‘green thumb’/crop physiology/crop management & artificial intelligence. Teams are encouraged from different countries and continents to participate. Teams have at least three individual members (see rules). Good English language skills are required.
How to join?
Register your team and all individual members here. Describe your background, skills and motivation for the challenge. Contact WUR for any questions or more information. WUR can help teams via its LinkedIn group Autonomous Greenhouses to come in contact with experts with a complementary background if needed to complete your team.
All subscribed teams fulfilling the criteria will be invited to the pre-challenge Hackathon at beginning of June to present your team, show your skills and pitch your approach in front of an international jury of experts at WUR, The Netherlands. The five best teams will be selected to participate in the Autonomous Greenhouse growing experiment taking place 1 September – 14 December 2018. The final event will be held in week 50 (December) at WUR, The Netherlands. Ω