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WUR researchers grow cucumbers using artificial intelligence

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Wageningen University & Research’s public-private partnership project AGROS aims to realize an "autonomous greenhouse" in which cultivation is remotely controlled by artificial intelligence (AI).

"The dot on the horizon is a fully autonomous greenhouse system based on sensor data, remotely controlled by an intelligent algorithm, with an objective goal, in this case the highest possible net profit,” says Anja Dieleman, AGROS project leader and researcher at the WUR business unit Greenhouse Horticulture. “In recent years we have developed the building blocks for this: the physiological knowledge of the crop, the sensors, and the intelligent algorithms. This is now all coming together in a validation trial.”

Cucumbers of the Hi-Power variety are grown in three greenhouse compartments at WUR's research facilities in Bleiswijk. The controls are different in each compartment: there are two compartments with autonomous greenhouse controls: the Digital Twin, and the Reinforcement Learning algorithm. In the third compartment, the reference compartment, cultivation is controlled by a group of crop and irrigation experts.

The Digital Twin algorithm controls everything: the climate (heating temperature), watering (determining when to apply irrigation), when to turn lights on and off, what CO2 concentration to achieve in the greenhouse, and even crop strategy. The Reinforcement-Learning algorithm is trained to control the greenhouse climate. By running millions of simulations, this form of artificial intelligence learned to find the optimal controls to control the greenhouse climate completely autonomously.

The frame of reference is a group of crop and irrigation experts from the AGROS partner companies. These experts represent grower knowledge and current best practices. They grow cucumbers in the third compartment.

The AGROS team will know which compartment had the most successful growing season in the fall.

READ MORE about how greenhouse vegetable production is expanding globally.

Read the JUNE/JULY 2023 issue of New AG International, free to view here.

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