PLANT FACTORIES AND SMART FARMING APPLICATIONS
PLANT FACTORIES AND SMART FARMING APPLICATIONS
Since the birth of civilization, the development of humanity, especially in the field of industry, has led to a decrease in agricultural areas. With the increase in population and the spread of industry, traditional agriculture was replaced by mechanized agriculture, while the size and quality of the areas to be farmed decreased. Nowadays, a period of change and transformation has begun in the field of agriculture. This new period is defined as the “Agriculture 4.0” period. This new era, which is based on the use of technology and digitalization in agriculture, brings along smart agriculture practices such as “plant factories, soilless agriculture, waterless agriculture, and vertical agriculture”.
The concept of plant factories, which aim to obtain high efficiency from agricultural products to be produced especially in empty warehouses in cities or in new areas to be established, first emerged in the 1980s with the idea of establishing an isolated structure against environmental factors with technological integration. It is certain that a comprehensive R&D investment is needed, especially in terms of minimizing costs, for the increase in the diversity of agricultural products, the examples of which we see in the Netherlands, the USA, and Japan, the standardization of the quality in production, the availability of every product in all seasons and the plant factories that provide longer shelf life.
According to the reports published by the United Nations, 7.6 billion people live in the world. It is estimated that this figure will reach 8.6 billion in 2030 and reach 11.2 billion in 2100. According to the evaluations made by TURKSTAT, it is estimated that the population of Turkey will exceed 100 million by 2040. In this evaluation, it is predicted that food production should be increased by 70% in order to meet the nutritional needs of the population to be reached in 2050. However, it is a fact that more than eighty percent of the existing land suitable for growing crops is used today, which shows that it is a necessity to implement new practices in agricultural production. Therefore, it is not possible to achieve this increase with the continued use of traditional agricultural methods. At this point, the implementation of new technology-based agricultural practices stands before us as a necessity. Plant factories, where vertical farming methods are applied, are considered as the most important application in terms of efficient use of fields and conscious use of natural resources, especially water, and stand out as an innovative and sustainable agriculture model of the future.
Plant factories, which are becoming widespread day by day around the world, provide advantages in many ways. The most important of these advantages is the need for less water consumption. It is stated that agricultural practices made in plant factories require 70 percent less water compared to traditional agricultural methods, and this rate is estimated to increase to 99 percent. This means an incredible amount of water savings. In addition, as the production is carried out in a closed area, uninterrupted productivity is ensured without being affected by any climatic conditions and other external factors. Creating the conditions required by the products to be produced with computer allows both to shorten the harvest time and to increase the productivity to the highest level by increasing the quality. Another advantage is the absence of harmful chemicals in the products. Almost all agricultural products are exposed to many chemicals, especially insecticides, during the growing period. Since plant factories are specially created areas, no harmful creatures can enter them. Therefore, there is no need for this kind of insecticide and this ensures that the products have a much longer shelf life.
Our country takes second place after the USA in terms of usable agricultural areas. On the other hand, the Netherlands, which is far behind us in terms of surface area and usable agricultural area, ranks second after the USA in agricultural production and exports in the world when we look at the export figures of the countries. This situation clearly reveals that Turkey can not use its agricultural resources efficiently and can not benefit from technology in agriculture. In this context, as Local Software and Robotic Brand of Turkey AKINSOFT and AKINROBOTICS, we also contribute to our country’s economy and the environment with the new project we develop. One of these projects we put into practice is the Solar Power Plant project, which we installed on the roof of our AKINROBOTICS facility. With this project, we aimed to provide a very important added value for the solution of the national economy and environmental problems, as in all platforms. With the power plant installed on an area of 1800 m², in addition to the annual 300,000 kWh electricity production, the amount of emissions to be prevented on an annual basis will be 131,856 kg and a significant contribution will be made to nature by preventing the cutting of 320 trees each year. On the other hand, the PNCR series, which is the agricultural robot project of AKINROBOTICS, that we announced on May 30, 2011 and designed entirely within our own business as a beet production robot, took its place in the history of the world. Our PNCR prototypes were developed to provide added value in the agricultural field as robotic systems that prevent the human error factor and maximize land productivity. After our PNCR series robots, we have an autonomous field robot project, which we have recently started to work on to add a new one to our field robots, that will assist in agricultural jobs, short-distance logistics, gardening works in medium-sized agricultural lands and will do the desired work in the desired period. The first tests of the drive mechanism are currently being carried out. In addition, with the drip irrigation systems we have installed in our AKINSOFT and AKINROBOTICS facilities, we ensure that our existing trees and planted areas are consciously irrigated, and that water resources are used efficiently. Moreover, we collect rain water in our water tank with a capacity of 102 cubic meters with the rain water collection channels installed within AKINROBOTICS, and it is kept in the warehouse and used for irrigation of the trees and planted areas in the factory land. Thus, these waters are not wasted and reused for nature.
With the awareness that we owe to nature, I believe that these projects we lead will become widespread throughout the country. The future of not only the people of our country, but also of the entire humanity, depends on having sufficient opportunities to access water and food and not experiencing difficulties in the supply of these resources. This depends on the most efficient use of existing resources and digitalization in agriculture, where the effects of factors such as water scarcity, barrenness, global climate changes and the need for energy are increasing day by day. Therefore, we must maximize our agricultural development without wasting any more time. The way to do this is only possible by implementing smart agriculture systems integrated with technology such as plant factories and vertical farming methods and making them sustainable.
”Nations that do not attach due importance to high technology are condemned to be slaves, putting themselves down as free in their own lands.”
PhD. Özgür AKIN
Chairman of AKINSOFT and AKINROBOTICS