Remember the movie The Martian? The botanist Mark Watney (played by the talented Matt Damon) survives on the planet of Mars by cultivating potatoes on a freeze-dried planet using greenhouse farming. The capabilities of greenhouse farming were truly out of the world, in this case. Flying a little closer to home, a greenhouse is what can be called a plant paradise. The greenhouse is a perfect setting for the plant to be nourished to achieve its true potential. Greenhouses and nurseries are the nurturing homes for plants and their management and monitoring becomes extremely important for growers, agribusinesses and Agri-marketers to ensure maximum productivity and to take timely actions on unforeseen vagaries.
A nursery, in simple terms, is a type of cultivation of seeds and saplings done indoors within a controlled environment, where the plants are grown and propagated to the desired age and then retailed or readied to be grown outdoors. It is a place of culturing the plants to a certain stage before they are grown or transplanted outside of that environment. Nursery management is the process of maintaining the right conditions for the nursery to function towards achieving its desired outcomes of cultivation.
The main phases of nursery management are:
Planning – The demand for planting material is determined here. The planning for provision of mother blocks, land area required to establish the nursery, water supply, working tools, growing structures and input availability is determined at this stage.
Implementation – Land treatment, protection against biotic interference and soil erosion, pest attack, proper layout of the nursery are covered here in this stage.
Monitoring and Evaluation – Physical presence, rapid response to changing conditions and vagaries, critical analysis of the day-to-day observations are done in this stage. This stage is crucial for yield estimation. The feedback for further monitoring is also a key portion of this stage.
As much as advantageous nursery cultivation is, it does come with its own set of challenges. The seeds that nurseries procure to cultivate may or may not be up to the standards of the nursery’s requirements. The quality of the seeds procured needs to be analysed based on the resultant yield, hence. There also is a need for individual attention to each plot so that each sapling in the nursery is monitored for health and checked for deviations from the expected growth. This level of monitoring requires an efficient data-driven technological intervention.
Greenhouses also face challenges with respect to functionality and input monitoring. If the greenhouse temperature and humidity reach beyond the prescribed level, it can result in crop transpiration. The crops inside the greenhouse also need to be monitored constantly and data collection based on each plot needs to be done. Traditional greenhouses have a proportional control mechanism that involves manual controlling, often resulting in production loss, energy loss and increased labour cost. Technological intervention eliminates manual involvement in monitoring and minimizes manual intervention in the maintenance of the greenhouse.
Even though there are ‘smart’ greenhouses which are IoT and sensor-based functioning in nature, there needs to be proper data collection and analysis of the information that is being sensed by the IoT system. That is where an efficient farm management system makes its hero entry.
Smart systems have completely changed the game for many sectors around the world and agriculture is no exception. SaaS-based farm management solutions like SmartFarm give out data-driven, actionable insights on the farm they are implemented upon. CropIn has now bettered its brainchild, SmartFarm to a new, evolved version that harnesses AI and Data Analytics to deliver high-performance solutions named SmartFarm Plus.
The all-new SmartFarm Plus is an amazing technological upgrade to its predecessor. SmartFarm Plus comes with newer and additional features that strengthen the farms’ self-evolving capabilities and future-readiness further than ever.
SmartFarm Plus is designed with many new capabilities. One of the new features focussing particularly on greenhouse and nurseries is Greenhouse Management. SmartFarm Plus has the capability to monitor individual trays and sections of the nurseries through integration with sensors. Different plots can be created within the same nursery and each plot can be divided into subplots or croppable areas. Different data collection activities per tray at plot level can be monitored and their analysis will only increase the productivity level of that particular plot. Different types of inputs going into the plot can be monitored without error and varied according to the resultant change. Irrigation can be done at the plot level and customised to each plot based on the plot requirement. This saves the nursery its resources and is a sustainable approach to cultivation in nature.
SmartFarm Plus is a standalone platform that can unify all technologies implemented on the farm at one place and map each of them simultaneously like a centralised platform. Particularly for greenhouses, each factor that influences the growth of plants inside the greenhouse such as pH content, greenhouse temperature and many more bear a crucial impact on the yield. SmartFarm Plus not only monitors each of these influencers and handles operations, but also adds value by analysing the critical sensory data that will determine the output from that variety of crop. This is the competitive advantage that SmartFarm Plus holds over the currently available enterprise farm management solutions.
The monitoring and analysis of sub-varieties of seeds was a challenge that SmartFarm Plus has addressed and now each sub-variety can be identified and monitored individually. The companies that manufacture hybrid seeds can now assign the particular variety of the hybrid seed to the particular plot and it can be monitored as a separate croppable unit.
For smart greenhouses, using SmartFarm Plus is an added feather to the cap. Smart Greenhouses are built with different sensors that are for identifying different sets of outputs and monitoring each of their output was a tedious task. Now all of the parallel outputs coming from each of these different sensors can be monitored on one platform using SmartFarm Plus. Each sensory information per tray can be shown together and the data collected can be displayed per tray.
Quality assurance is another major factor that SmartFarm Plus will empower greenhouses and nurseries with, through traceability. The quality and estimated yield value of a plant can be traced back to its nursery or greenhouse thanks to SmartFarm Plus. The feature which previously was only applicable on the entire plot can now be applied to individual trays and the varieties grown there as well. This brings in the much-needed credibility to the nursery or the greenhouse and that means better ROI and market value for them.
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SmartFarm Plus makes the lives of agribusinesses who focus on cultivating a specific variety of crop a lot easier than before. Along with complete monitoring of greenhouse operations, the platform can also predict yield from each seed and connect that information to the supply chain. This helps agribusinesses understand the expected output and build appropriate strategies around the same.
The demand for hybridised and customised varieties of crops is increasing everyday. The agribusinesses are faced with the challenge of ensuring traceability and quality assurance in each variety that they produce. The source team in every agribusiness understands the demand for the particular crop variety. SmartFarm Plus will help produce that variety through actionable data-driven insights. The external influences on the seed variety while being produced can be monitored and overestimation and overuse of inputs can be avoided. This ensures efficiency and cost effective production. SmartFarm Plus makes traceability look easier than what it actually is.
The implementation of SmartFarm Plus can be explained better using an example of a strawberry farmer cultivating in a cold country like Russia. He will have to monitor the temperature everyday consistently to make sure the frost doesn’t kill his crops. Installing a temperature sensory system would definitely help the farmer but the frost would affect each plant differently based on the variety. This would need individual monitoring based on each tray or croppable area. That’s where SmartFarm Plus comes in. The solution not only would monitor and identify each tray individually but also analyse the sensory information from these trays and provide actionable insights based on that. The solution also becomes a knowledge repository after it has collected data for a period of time from each of these plots. This means there are knowledge repositories for each plot with the farmer, thus empowering him to take timely action through quick identification as per circumstance.
The wonder that SmartFarm Plus is, is a testament to the technological advancement today in the field of agriculture. Everyday, the world is moving towards becoming smarter than before and more efficient in its functionality. Solutions like SmartFarm Plus are a wonderful addition to building a sustainable tomorrow and a profitable marketplace for all.
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