A Polish start-up has developed the first application in a suite of artificial intelligence (AI) tools dedicated to crop monitoring, yield optimization and management of outdoor hemp fields.
“We’ll be able to accurately predict when flowers will be perfect for a harvest. That’s important not only because cannabinoids content can drop more than 35% if collected too late, but it’s also critical from a logistics point of view,” said Marcin Marczak, CEO at the developer, Green Cube Solutions. “With the limitations on available equipment, good planning is the key to a successful harvest.”
The technology being developed by Łódź-based Green Cube is an “integrated end-to-end platform that will support farmers from soil preparation through harvest and up to product distribution,” Marczak said. Created by a group of Polish scientists, the system uses satellite and drone imagery data supported by a complex deep-learning algorithm to monitor the health and vegetative state of each individual plant.
Green Cube experts will visit customer farmers and run the drone system 3 to 5 times during the growing cycle. Delivery of data will be under a subscription plan for those companies and farmers who join the Green Cube network. Data will be delivered to growers via a custom designed web-based and Android application.
In Phase 1 of the company’s development plan, Green Cube is focusing over the coming year on technology that can monitor crops to locate male plants and analyze individual plants for nutrition. Detecting male plants is critical to monoicous (female only) seed breeding and can be a key factor affecting yield and quality of seed material, Marczak noted. Green Cube has estimated the first application now developed can cut by five- to 10-fold the costs of removing males, customarily carried out by workers walking through hemp fields to identify males by sight and plucking them.
“Most people have heard about feminized seeds, however not everyone knows that there are at least 13 environmental factors that can cause females to switch gender,” Marczak said. “It means that males can spontaneously emerge in a female population and destroy the entire crop.”
Pollination and formation of seeds also have a critical impact on CBD and other cannabinoids content, Marczak noted, with research indicating that up to 60% of all cannabinoids can be lost if dioecious female plants become pollinated.
Green Cube this year successfully tested Phase 1 technology in its own fields on a small scale (3.5 ha/8.6 acres). Marczak said next year the team will run a pilot commercial grow on at least 67 hectares of hemp via a producers group the company has formed in Poland.
As of now, the area the system can cover is limited to the large amount of data that must be processed and analyzed as part of the AI learning process. But Green Cube’s six contracted farmers represent a combined 2,000 hectares of land, and Marczak said the company has as many as 15 other farmers the consortium could embrace.
More features coming
Phases 2 & 3 of Green Cube’s development cycle call for development of a task planner and technology that will assess flower maturity and estimate yield in 2021, with applications for end-to-end cultivation process management, and malnutrition and disease detection to roll out in 2022.
Marczak said Green Cube is in talks with several firms in Poland, and is reviewing selected places around the globe for trial deployments in 2020, with plans to go fully commercial in 2021. Meanwhile, the company continues to look for strategic farmers, partners and investors, Marczak said.