Algorithms help greenhouse growers make decisions

Published on
October 15, 2021

There is a great shortage of 'green knowledge', in other words: people who know how to get the most out of a crop. Artificial intelligence can help with that. That is why the Business Unit Greenhouse Horticulture and Flower Bulbs of Wageningen University & Research is working on the development of algorithms that support the grower in making decisions. The first version of the cucumber cultivation algorithm will be ready in 2024.

In 2020, the AGROS (Evolution to sustainable AGRicultural Operation Systems) project started. Over the course of four years, the development of agro-technology to support ecological and biological functions in glasshouse horticulture, arable farming and dairy farming will be carried out. The Business Unit Greenhouse Horticulture and Flower Bulbs focuses on autonomous cultivation in horticultural crops.

The ultimate goal: a computer that is just as good at growing as a real grower, or even better. To do this, artificial intelligence must know which decisions a grower makes and obtain the right information for this. That sounds easier than it is. For example, leaves are an important indicator for the growth of the crop for growers, but how can a camera with image recognition correctly count that number of leaves in a dense crop?

The right algorithms

The project consists of three parts. The first part is an inventory of which parameters are needed to make the right cultivation decisions. This concerns data about for instance the climate and the crop. The second part is about the hardware: which sensors are needed to measure accurately the desired parameters? Can this be done with existing sensors, or does new hardware have to be developed? The third step is to develop the right algorithms.

AGROS focuses on cucumbers for greenhouse horticulture. This is a fast-growing crop, which is also grown all year round. In addition, the crop reacts quickly to cultivation decisions, and greenhouses with cucumbers are generally equipped with many modern techniques.

AGROS is a collaboration between Wageningen University & Research and 26 private partners with financial support from the Top Sectors Agri & Food and Horticulture & Propagation Materials.​