Nov 2, 2022
Microsoft AI partnership helps reduce greenhouse labor issues

Microsoft is collaborating with Blue Radix, a company specializing in autonomous growing, to use artificial intelligence to help reduce the scarcity of crop expertise in greenhouses.

Greenhouses around the world are facing a unique crisis. The rapid growth of greenhouses feeding and greening the world is not matched by the number of professional growers. Plus, greenhouse growers are aging. There are not enough growers entering the industry to replace the increasing numbers of retiring growers, which pressures an already sensitive system.

Blue Radix installed a “digital brain” into greenhouses. Microsoft wrote an article about how Blue Radix partnership and made a video about the topic. Blue Radix provides autonomous growing and artificial intelligence solutions for the global greenhouse industry. Its Crop Controller technology uses smart algorithms to steer operational processes in greenhouses. With machine learning, crop needs are predicted to optimize climate and energy management, enabling growers to meet their daily challenges to produce more food and flowers with fewer resources, according to a news release.

The partnership began with Blue Radix’s involvement in an autonomous greenhouse competition. Microsoft’s judges liked Blue Radix’s use of AI to integrate greenhouse data in one space, easing the burden for growers managing many acres and filling the knowledge gap for new staff, according to the release. After the competition, Microsoft helped Blue Radix develop a commercial version of an AI-driven solution for autonomous growing, which helped develop what would become the commercially available Crop Controller service.

Despite differing connection methods, Microsoft helped Blue Radix connect greenhouses around the world. Blue Radix was able to create an Azure IoT solution applying algorithms to daily processes in a secure and reliable way.

Processes include climate management, irrigation and energy management. Growers can set their strategy for the coming periods. Blue Radix technology carries out the operations every five minutes all day and every day, according to the release.

Within the next five years, Blue Radix expects 90 percent of the international greenhouse horticulture sector will be utilizing AI. Blue Radix is developing services and continuously adding new AI services to help customers, according to the release.

“Everything is happening in the mind of the grower, and we’re transferring that information into algorithms that can take action,” Ronald Hoek, Blue Radix’s CEO, said in the release. “We are reducing human error that directly influences the quality but also the production results of a greenhouse company.” A grower managing 24.7 acres or 10 hectares could manage up to 124 acres or 50 hectares. Crop Controller provides an important step forward in helping solve the global challenge of the scarcity of experienced growers, Hoek said in the release.

Last summer, Microsoft sent an eight member crew to the Netherlands to make a video about Blue Radix’s added value of autonomous growing. The video also shows the sector’s innovation that transcends the greenhouse industry, according to the release.

“Microsoft Azure helps us to develop algorithms to step into the gap that is growing because of the increasing scarcity of skilled and experienced growers,” Hoek said. “With the help of Microsoft, we enable growers and greenhouse entrepreneurs to produce healthy and safe food for the growing world population.”

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