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Winner announced in WUR autonomous greenhouse challenge

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From the five teams who made it to the final, Team Automatoes was announced the winner, with team captain Leonard Baart de la Faille accepting the award.

Calls for entries were announced in June 2019 (see here). The other four finalists were: Team IUA.CAAS, Team DIGILOG, The Automators, and Team AiCU.

The goal of the 2019/20 challenge was to produce a cherry tomato crop within six months with high quality, high productivity and high resource efficiency in WUR greenhouses. Points were on offer for net profitability, sustainability and AI strategy.

The tomatoes were cultivated in WUR greenhouses in Bleiswijk, Netherlands. Each team had its own compartment in the greenhouse, equipped with the standard actuators and sensors to control temperature, ventilation, screens, artificial lighting, CO2 and irrigation, said WUR. Climate and irrigation set points, as well as pruning strategies, were designed remotely using AI algorithms. The manual labour to carry out instructions was provided by the university, such as topping out and harvesting the tomatoes.

All five teams reached a better performance on net profit than the reference grower, according to Dr Silke Hemming, head of the WUR Greenhouse Technology research team, and the lead organiser of the challenge. When summarising the key take-home messages, Hemming said the teams used different climate strategies that often resulted in the same production volume, but different sustainability scores.

During his opening presentation, David Wallerstein, CXO of Tencent said: “We have demonstrated that AI is a game changer for increasing greenhouse productivity.” Wallerstein also highlighted the importance of the energy requirement of greenhouses and suggested that some regions of the world that have low-cost renewable energy could become new centres for greenhouse production.

The presentation to the winner of the Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge was made as a webinar and formed part of the digital first day of GreenTech event.

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