Microsoft reached out to Blue Radix to help them develop a commercial version of the Blue Radix solution for autonomous growing. This solidified the partnership and helped develop what would become the commercially available Crop Controller service.
Blue Radix and Microsoft Collaborate to Solve Scarcity of Crop Expertise
Case Study from | Microsoft
Greenhouses around the world are facing a unique crisis. The rapid growth of greenhouses feeding and greening our world is not matched by the number of professional growers. And greenhouse growers are aging. There are not enough people entering the industry to replace the increasing numbers of retiring growers. This places an increasing pressure on a sensitive system. Who will operate these greenhouses in the near future?
One company is helping to solve these worldwide challenges by implementing a ‘digital brain’ into greenhouses.
Blue Radix provides autonomous growing and artificial intelligence solutions for the greenhouse sector worldwide. Their Crop Controller technology uses smart algorithms to steer operational processes in greenhouses around the clock. Thanks to machine learning, the needs of the crop are predicted to optimize climate and energy management. This enables growers to meet their daily challenges to produce more food and flowers with fewer resources.
Microsoft Azure helps connect growers to the future
Blue Radix teamed up with Microsoft in an unlikely way, beginning as competitors in an autonomous greenhouse competition. Judges were impressed by Blue Radix’s use of AI to integrate all greenhouse data in one space, easing the burden for growers managing many acres and filling the knowledge gap for new staff.
After the competition, Microsoft reached out to Blue Radix to help them develop a commercial version of the Blue Radix solution for autonomous growing. This solidified the partnership and helped develop what would become the commercially available Crop Controller service.
“One of the first things Microsoft offered us was the FastTrack for Azure support,” says Laurens van der Spek, COO of Blue Radix. “They're helping us making the correct choices on architecture, security and tooling and prevent us from making mistakes.”
Azure solutions were implemented with the FastTrack engineering team assistance including Azure IoT Hub, SQL, Data Lake, Functions and Azure DevOps, amongst other tools.
“I think the most important part about Azure is that all tooling is available that we need,” said van der Spek. “We haven't found any tooling yet that isn't available in Azure or isn’t incorporated and can’t work with Azure.”
Microsoft helped Blue Radix connect greenhouses around the world, despite the various connection methods. Blue Radix was able to create an Azure IoT solution applying algorithms to daily processes in a secure and reliable way.
“Everything is happening in the mind of the grower, and we're transferring that information into algorithms that can take action,” says Ronald Hoek, CEO of Blue Radix. “We are reducing human error that directly influences the quality but also the production results of a greenhouse company. A grower today managing 10 hectares, could manage 40 or even 50 hectares with Crop Controller, which is a very big and important step forward, helping to solve that global challenge of the scarcity of experienced growers.”
Processes include climate management, irrigation, and energy management. In this way, a grower can set their strategy for the coming periods and Blue Radix technology carries out the operations every five minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“I think one of our customers said it best — he finally could have some time off now,” says van der Spek. “Crop Controller helps maintain quality and reach the strategy he already had, without him being the controller in the greenhouse, almost 24/7.”
Secure, scalable and robust software
Security is critical in ensuing the success of Crop Controller. Data cannot be lost or shared outside of the specific customer’s environment.
“One of the most important solutions we incorporated is Azure Advisor. It gives us continuous advice about all security risks we have, all of the things that are happening and what we need to do to improve them. So we have a continuous feedback loop on what we develop. It's on par with all security standards, and what we can do to mitigate them. And that's something we use every day,” says van der Spek.
Security is essential for growers in order to keep the greenhouses running without the constant oversight of the grower.
“Microsoft Azure helped deliver services for us to make our product commercially available around the world, make it scalable, make it secure, and make it robust,” says van der Spek.
The future of greenhouse growing is lush
Within the next five years, Blue Radix expects that 90 percent of the international greenhouse horticulture sector will be utilizing artificial intelligence. Blue Radix is still developing services, continuously adding new services, and also continuing new AI-models to help customers even further.
“Microsoft Azure will help us explore data better in the future, faster and in a more secure way to help actually serve our customers,” says Hoek. “With Microsoft, we are empowered to build algorithms to contribute to the production of healthy and safe food for people all over the world. And with this, we are working together for a better and safer planet.”
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AgriTechTomorrow
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