Vertical farming specialists Aerofarms and Nokia Bell Labs (the industrial research arm of Nokia) have been working together since 2020 to identify and track advanced plant interactions. Now the companies have extended their ground-breaking partnership after reaching the important milestone of achieving a proof of concept for a state-of-the-art integrated system and testing the technologies with AeroFarms’ current crop varieties.
“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.” says Roger Buelow, CTO at AeroFarms “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.”
The new multi-year partnership will continue to combine the two firms’ expertise and expand their joint capabilities in networking, autonomous systems and integrated machine vision and machine learning technologies. AeroFarms contributes its commercial growing expertise, comprehensive environmental controls, an agriculture-focused data platform, and machine vision core foundation. Nokia Bell Lab contributes its autonomous drone control and orchestration systems, private wireless networks, robust image and sensor data pipelines, and innovative artificial intelligence (AI) enabled mobile sensor technologies.
More than the human eye can see
Nokia Bell Labs’ machine vision technology has enabled the most precise data capture yet, down to the level of individual plants, using leaf size segmentation, quantification, and pixel-based scanning to identify consistency and variation. Going beyond what the human eye can perceive, this state-of-the art imaging technology enables the gathering of immense insights about a plant, including its leaf size, stem length, coloration, curvature, spotting, and tearing.
The end-to-end system is flexible and robust, built to take advantage of Nokia’s industry-leading 5G private wireless network with cloud processing technology, designed for low latency and high privacy in an on-premises network. It also provides intelligent industrial analytics capabilities as an integrated service that can be deployed quickly and efficiently anywhere.
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.”
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.”
The multi-year partnership between AeroFarms and Nokia is anchored on shared values as mission-driven companies with the vision to scale technologies for the greater good. AeroFarms’ vertical farming platform is more sustainable than traditional farming with up to 390 times greater productivity per square foot annually, while using up to 95% less water and zero pesticides. In addition, vertical farming provides local food options for communities, reducing the environmental impact of trucking and shipping produce long distances and helping combat food waste.