AeroFarms and Nokia partner for AI Plant Vision

  • August 11, 2021
  • William Payne

AeroFarms and Nokia have partnered to expand joint capabilities in networking, autonomous systems, machine vision and machine learning. The partnership aims to boost plant yields and product quality in indoor vertical farming through the development of advanced AI-enabled plant vision and application of AI, drones and networking.

AeroFarms is contributing expertise in indoor vertical farming, environmental controls, agriculture-focused data and machine vision to the partnership.

Nokia Bell Labs, the industrial research arm of Nokia, is contributing expertise on autonomous drone control and orchestration systems, private wireless networks, image and sensor data pipelines, and AI enabled mobile sensor technologies.

AeroFarms and Nokia Bell Labs have been working together since 2020 and have achieved a proof of concept for an integrated system. They are now testing the technologies developed with AeroFarms’ current commercial crop varieties. The two companies are now planning to scale this system to all of AeroFarms’ crops and future indoor vertical farms, including the next ones in Danville, Virginia and Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Nokia Bell Labs’ machine vision technology has enabled data capture down to the level of individual plants, using leaf size segmentation, quantification, and pixel-based scanning to identify consistency and variation. This imaging technology enables insights about a plant including its leaf size, stem length, coloration, curvature, spotting, and tearing. The end-to-end system is built to take advantage of Nokia’s 5G private wireless network with cloud processing technology. It also provides intelligent industrial analytics capabilities as an integrated service.

AeroFarms believes that the integration of Nokia Bell Labs’ AI-enabled drone-based sensors and advanced machine learning, computer vision and data analytics technologies with the company’s existing machine vision tools elevates its position as an agriculture platform.

AeroFarms’ vertical farming platform achieves up to 390 times greater productivity per square foot than traditional farming methods according to tests run by the company, while using up to 95% less water and zero pesticides. Vertical farming can also provides greater local food options for communities, reduce the environmental impact of trucking and shipping produce long distances, and help combat food waste.

David Rosenberg, CEO at AeroFarms, said: “With Nokia Bell Labs, 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.”

Roger Buelow, CTO at AeroFarms, said: “AeroFarms’ expert team of plant scientists and engineers have been working together for two years with Nokia Bell Labs’ top researchers and engineers to train these complex learning systems with a nuanced understanding of plant biology. We have created a cross-disciplinary understanding at an industrial scale to develop the latest imaging technology to help accelerate our ability to introduce new crops and ensure the highest quality for our commercial operations.”

Thierry Klein, VP, Integrated Solutions and Experiences Research Lab at Nokia, said: “Nokia Bell Labs is driven to solve hard and impactful problems, and together with AeroFarms, we are building the ability to see and identify plant interactions at unprecedented levels. 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.”