Dutch WUR researchers grow cucumbers using artificial intelligence

15-08-2023 | |
Photo WUR, Guy Ackermans
Photo WUR, Guy Ackermans

The public-private partnership project Agros aims to realize an ‘autonomous greenhouse’ in which cultivation is remotely controlled by artificial intelligence (AI). Intelligent algorithms and advanced sensors monitor key crop characteristics and support the decisions made to achieve profitable cultivation. Agros is led by the Dutch Wageningen University & Research.

“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. 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,” says Anja Dieleman, AGROS project leader and researcher at the WUR business unit Greenhouse Horticulture.

Validation trial with three different controls

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.

Digital Twin and Reinforcement Learning

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. Learn more about both approaches in this video:

Grower practice

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. “We are as close as possible to grower practice,” says Franky van Looveren, Cultivation Manager at MechaTronix. See how their cultivation strategy is set up here:

Wondering which compartment had the most successful growing season? We‘ll know after the summer vacations.

Join 17,000+ subscribers

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated about all the need-to-know content in the agricultural sector, two times a week.

Ed Asscheman Online editor Future Farming
More about