Smart grow lights may be the most value-added Internet-connected lighting application yet. A plant growth environment must have the ideal conditions for each stage of plant growth. So, an entirely controlled environment requires numerous sensors including temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, etc… Plants also need watering, and of course, most importantly light.
A distinct combination of factors can produce the optimal yield and plant quality. This combination of factors requires measurement and maintenance and constant adjustment. Additionally, discovering how various environmental factors affect the plant growth can be significantly improved with the aid of deep learning and even AI.
Also, even after a light and grow recipe is devised, the system has to accurately schedule each change or adjustment in line with the stage of the plant’s growth. So in applications such as vertical farming and indoor cannabis growth, the intelligence and maintenance capabilities of the lighting combined with sensors can make such growth facilities more profitable.
While saving electricity compared to conventional grow lights is a concern, the spectrum of the light output is also a vital issue. A growth recipe requires the light to emit specific portions of the light spectrum during particular phases of plant growth. Timing and scheduling would have to be different for each type of plant.
The ideal, controlled growth environment would also schedule a simulated night time. Growing plants and crops indoors can be a costly endeavor. The electricity for the grow lighting can be one of the biggest operating costs.
The system becomes the plant growing expert. It doesn’t take years of training to grow the best plants, it just demands a system that knows the right recipe for a specific type of plant or crop. The value of such a system comes from its ability to both reduce electricity cost and its ability to maximize plant growth and quality.
While not many companies have come out with smart grow lights, several are working on them. NASA is even testing out such a system from Osram for its potential use in space. And another company is working on home growth appliance which controls the environment within a box the size of a small refrigerator.
An intelligent system takes much of the guesswork out of the equation. So far they don’t have one with a camera that analyzes the quality of plants and the growth stage. I could envision a system that could digitally learn to look for particular characteristics such as number of buds, flowers, stems, etc…
Once learned, such a system could also conduct its own experiments to determine a growth recipe. Again this could ultimately take much of the human factor out of the process.
While it would be difficult and costly to do on a large scale, vertical farming could make such systems very economical, and ultimately very profitable compared to hiring experts to take care of plants and crops.