The Autogrower

Understanding microclimates with Folium

In this video from Daniel and Tharindu you will learn the importance of understanding microclimates and the impact they can have on your plants. You will also learn how climate sensor technology can ensure you have the best environment for your crops. 

Video transcript

Hi, guys. My name is Daniel Than and I am the Field Trial Specialist here at Autogrow.
Hi, guys. My name is Tharindu Weeraratne. I'm the Director of Crop Science and Agronomy at Autogrow. During my PhD and in my research, I look at how plants respond to external and biotic stimuli. I specifically look at how plants respond to light and help growers best use light for growing.

So this is what Folium looks like, very slick, isn't it? Essentially Folium is a greenhouse sensor network which takes six different measurements. It can measure temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, carbon dioxide, two types of lights: radiation and photosynthetically active radiation.

What's different with Folium compared to the other sensors in the market is that you can take all of those measurements with one unit – and it's also wireless.

If you take the greenhouse environment it has two components: the crop and the environment. How well you understand these two is really important because if you understand both the plant and the environment properly, then you can get healthier plants and
more money in your pocket.

Currently, how the industry works and the sensing specifically is you have one sensor and take that information to control your environment. But I can tell you that that information is not enough for precision farming. You need more sensors and better sensors to have a better understanding of your environment and the microclimates.

With Folium, I would like to bring up a new concept within microclimates. With conventional farming and conventional sensing, we are used to measuring temporal variation, for example, in the last 24 hours. With Folium – in addition to temporal variation – you can also measure spatial variation in all three dimensions.

And remember you can't improve what you don't measure. Folium will change the way that
the growers use sensing to growing. That's right. What Folium also does is it provides
its data in a visual way in an online platform. Let me just share my screen right now to show you what it is.

So basically with this online platform, you can visualize the data anywhere in the world. What you can see here is a heatmap of a demo farm that we have and immediately you can see the differences in temperature between two different corners.

Let's take an example with monoculture. With monoculture, the growers grow a uniform crop.
So, for example, I'll take another tool that they use, what we call the crop registration.
They use this to assess the plant growth rates. They select a set of plants in a small area of the greenhouse assuming that the whole greenhouse environment is uniform. But unfortunately, that's not the case.

Greenhouse temperature in this example is going to change from place to place. Sometimes it's subtle and sometimes it's very significant. So therefore, if you have a better understanding of your temperature variation, you can use that information and growers can rethink the way that they use this information for selecting plants. And in this case, for crop registration.
Yes. And to be able to do that you need to be able to visualize.

I showed you to heatmap. But we can also look at the data in its history so you can look back at different time spans, whatever you choose, and you can look at it comparing with other different senses within your growing environment.

If you want to see all the readings and once you can go to this tab and you'll be able to
see all the readings, temperature, humidity and so forth.

With communications with various growers, one of the real winners of Folium is actually
the heatmap. And that's because very quickly, as you can see here, you can visualize
what is happening in your greenhouse. And using this, for example, the variation in
microclimates could be because of a tree line, it could be because of uneven ventilation
in your greenhouse, just to name a few factors.

On the note of uneven whitewash. I think more importantly it can actually affect your light.
And I'll give an example with radiation. If we know the variation in radiation in your greenhouse compartment, you can create virtual radiation zones and you can use that zones to adjust irrigation. And that's a whole new level of control compared to conventional irrigation.

So we discussed about temperature and light but what about RH, Daniel?

RH stands for relative humidity and it's very important for growers to understand the
relative humidity because it can have an impact on the crop. One way it can impact your crop is it can cause diseases to be more prevalent. So diseases like botrytis, rust, and a lot
of other fungal and bacterial diseases actually love high humidity to be able to infect your crop. So you need to understand what relative humidity is inside your growing environment.

You know, pathogens love cold, muggy conditions. One of the first steps is to control the RH,
usually by using tools like ventilation. And if you know RH variation in your greenhouse, then you can use that information to actually apply proper ventilation. And remember, in this case, you also need the proper infrastructure to control the RH.

So we discussed temperature, light and RH. One important environmental effect is CO2
which is an input for photosynthesis. Absolutely. Carbon dioxide is very important to the plant.
And the way I understand it is that photosynthesis requires carbon dioxide. It requires light, nutrients and water for it to happen and to make the plant grow.

But if you have a lot of light and not have enough carbon dioxide, your plant is not going to grow any faster. That's because you need all of these things in balance. And carbon dioxide can be quite expensive for growers to use, and not all growers necessarily will use it, but there are growers out there like tomato growers, capsicum, cucumber growers that use carbon dioxide very effectively.

Now, plants love CO2 when all other factors are at optimal. Let's take a vine crop like tomato, you know, the younger parts may be more hungry for carbon dioxide than the older parts.
And if you think about how carbon dioxide is supplemented in the greenhouse, usually
it is close to the ground. So it's creating a gradient. Then the availability to different parts of the plant is going to be changing. Having the understanding of what's the carbon dioxide variation along the vertical profile is really important as growers can use that information to see where and when the plant is needing more carbon dioxide.

So we discussed tomato plants and vine crops. Folium can equally be used in other crops like leafy greens, floriculture crops, and also seedling production.

In seedling production, specifically, you can use the Folium greenhouse sensor network to follow the crop from start to finish. Growers can use that information to inform how they apply the environmental conditions and get the maximum benefit out of these plant production. You need to maintain the proper environmental conditions to get the best plants and uniform plants.

There's a very interesting point you brought up there, Tharindu, using Folium to follow your
crops or to get a vertical profile of your greenhouse. I don't think this is something that a lot
of growers have even thought about, so it shows you the versatility of Folium as a product.

So to all the growers out there, you can't manage what you can't measure. And Folium can do
that comprehensively and affordably. For more information about Folium, please contact us or go to our website for more information.

And on that note, thank you for listening to us and goodbye.

Autogrow Team

Written by Autogrow Team


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