New project backed by Innovate UK links AI and indoor farming to improve sustainability

The Advanced Crop Dynamic Control (ACDC) project is set to dramatically transform the landscape of Total Controlled Environment Agriculture (TCEA) within the UK. The project led by LettUs Grow, in partnership with Fotenix, Rothamsted Research, Crop Health and Protection, and Vertically Urban, focuses on the application of image-based analysis, artificial intelligence, and bespoke software to create indoor farming systems that are not only energy-efficient but also sustainable.

Innovate UK has announced its support for the ambitious ACDC project with £757,151 in funding through the Novel Low Emission Food Production Systems competition. The primary goal of the project is to address and rectify the inefficiencies in TCEA operations by harnessing cutting-edge technologies and innovative approaches to significantly enhance energy efficiency across the board.

The consortium led by LettUs Grow, is comprised of Fotenix and Vertically Urban (providing technological input), alongside leading research organisation Rothamsted Research and Crop Health and Protection (one of the Agri-Tech Centres).

Energy not only represents a significant portion of operational costs in TCEA but also poses sustainability challenges. Addressing both cost and environmental impact, the ACDC consortium aims to introduce innovative TCEA cultivation techniques that fine-tune environmental controls, including lighting, irrigation, and nutrient delivery, to reduce the carbon footprint associated with these systems.

In addition to this, the project will utilise adaptive management to look at the automation of traditionally manual tasks and improve the safety, consistency, quality, and shelf-life of produce, benefiting both retailers and consumers.

Crop physiology data will be generated from a spectral imaging system coupled with AI-based plant screening designed by Fotenix, this data will guide and inform decisions on the intensity and composition of illumination, as well as the management of energy and the incorporation of renewable energy sources- all controlled by the Ostara software platform, a creation of LettUs Grow. With an emphasis on plant health, the project aims for environmentally friendly production formulas through the use of sophisticated, responsive control techniques.

The consortium’s partners voiced strong support for the project’s promise to transform UK sustainable agriculture with the backing of Innovate UK and emphasised their commitment to innovations aimed at food security and an economically sound TCEA future.

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