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AI detects plant woes in high-tech indoor farm at UB
New York Ag Connection - 02/21/2024

Imagine a phonebooth-sized greenhouse bustling with lettuce and basil, watched over by an eagle-eyed AI system. This isn't science fiction, but a new research project at the University at Buffalo that's revolutionizing indoor farming.

The AI system, developed by UB's Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, acts as a vigilant guardian, identifying even the faintest signs of distress in the plants. This early detection of nutrient deficiencies, pests, and other problems is crucial for optimizing yields and ensuring healthy harvests.

"We're harnessing AI to tackle major challenges," says Jinjun Xiong, the project lead and director of the institute. "This project, funded by FuzeHub, specifically aims to address food insecurity by partnering with local indoor farming pioneers Ellicottville Greens and Starco Lighting."

Indoor vertical farming offers distinct advantages: using less water and land than traditional methods, and bringing fresh produce closer to consumers, even in areas with limited access. However, monitoring plant health can be costly. This project seeks to optimize the growing environment using AI and computer vision.

Multiple cameras mounted on the LED lights capture images of the plants under different lighting conditions. AI algorithms then analyze these images, detecting potential issues like fungal growth before it spreads. Additionally, the system can recommend optimal lighting spectrums, intensity, and duration for faster, healthier growth.

"The potential of AI and computer vision in controlled environments like indoor farms is immense," says Xiong. "This project showcases how AI can be a powerful tool for addressing societal needs in innovative ways."

This research holds significant promise for the future of indoor farming. By leveraging AI's capabilities, growers can optimize their operations, reduce costs, and ultimately deliver even fresher, healthier produce to communities everywhere.

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