Seeding the Right IoT Architecture to Build a Better Farm

AeroFarms is using data-driven insights from an IoT deployment to increase yields, conserve resources and improve the flavor of its produce.

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Dell EMC

Enterprises around the world are working actively to capitalize on the opportunities brought by the convergence of high performance computing, data analytics and artificial intelligence. And we’re not talking about just the big, global players. Small and midsize businesses are very much in this game — in a big way.

That’s the case at AeroFarms, a U.S.-based company that is on a mission to build and operate environmentally responsible farms throughout the world by enabling local production at scale.
This young company is dedicated to nourishing communities with safe, nutritious and delicious food. To carry out its mission, AeroFarms runs the world’s largest indoor vertical farm, which yields up to 390 times more produce than a traditional field farm — all without sunlight, soil or pesticides, and all with 95 percent less water.

AeroFarms builds vertical farms in urban areas that aren’t known for agriculture — such as Newark, New Jersey, where the company has its global headquarters, as well as indoor farming operations. In these and other facilities, AeroFarms is proving that through a high-tech, data-driven method of misting nutrients directly on to the plant roots, as well as directing appropriate amounts and wavelengths of artificial light, leafy greens can thrive in an indoor farming environment.

All of this, of course, takes more than great ideas and great execution. It also takes a lot of great technology to harness the data that helps AeroFarms gain insights into operations and make informed decisions. This is where Dell Technologies enters the picture. Through its partnership with Dell Technologies, AeroFarms is well positioned to implement the right data-driven machinery into its industry-leading processes. Using data related to temperature, humidity, airflow, nutrients, light, water and food safety, AeroFarms automates and analyzes everything from seed to package.

The IoT journey

To begin its IoT journey, AeroFarms worked with Dell Technologies Consulting to determine its use cases, design a technical architecture that met its business requirements, and then to develop an implementation roadmap to achieve the company’s business goals. 

From an IT architecture standpoint, AeroFarms faced several unique challenges and considerations. Here’s a look at some of these higher-level issues, and how Dell Technologies approached them.

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As part of the architecture, we recommended the use of Dell Edge Gateways for IoT to help the research and production farms accelerate the analysis of plant health instrumentation data. We also included a Dell EMC PowerEdge 740xd high-performance compute node to support artificial intelligence, deep learning and advanced, custom analytics. These capabilities can help AeroFarms improve growing conditions — for example, by automating image recognition and classification to adjust plant nutrients, light and other factors. 

Key takeaways

Ultimately, AeroFarms is a technology company that is leveraging science and engineering to redefine what’s possible in agriculture. In this quest, the company is equally vested in harvesting not just its plants but also its data to gain a closer understanding of the symbiotic relationships among biology, environment and technology, and to drive better performance.

AeroFarms is a fascinating example of how technology advances human progress, and we’re proud to be part of the company’s story. In providing strategic and technical guidance, Dell Technologies Consulting has helped AeroFarms implement a scalable architecture that meets business requirements, including custom grow analytics, and that also works within the unique parameters of an emerging company. 

To learn more about our consulting services and the work we did at AeroFarms, watch the video “Achieving Scale with Big Data and IoT.”

Laddie Suk leads a cross-functional Dell Technologies Consulting team focused on digital transformation and industry solutions.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.