Fully Automated Farming-as-a-Service (Faas) Solution from INFO

GROWx approached INFO to create the world’s first fully robotized, zero-waste vertical farm.

The Challenge

Amsterdam-based vertical farming company GROWx wants to produce food in a future-proof and circular way. Its mission is to provide local, zero-waste, nutritious, affordable and tasteful produce.

To globally scale this innovative concept, GROWx partnered up with INFO to create the world’s first fully robotized, zero-waste vertical farm. INFO combined their expertise in human-centered design, robotics, IoT sensors and data science to co-create a fully automated Farming-as-a-Service (Faas) solution. FaaS is a promising business model in which GROWx builds vertical farms and manages them as a service for their customers. Together, they embarked on an extensive journey to shape the vision for FaaS and to provide actionable evidence to properly build, test and scale towards a fully automated Plant Manager.

INFO’s Solution

Service Design for a Plant-Centered Business

INFO can find the challenge of this project on the intersection of plants, robots, users and, ultimately, creating a positive impact for farmers, consumers and society as a whole. To solve this complicated challenge, they used their proven service design approach. They helped GROWx to scope their vision and to define a strategic roadmap towards the implementation of a minimum viable product (MVP).

Gaining a Deep Understanding of the GROWx Ecosystem

To better understand the interaction between plants, humans and robots, INFO conducted research to map out the essential processes involved in a plant’s lifecycle. Through in-depth sessions with stakeholders and interviews with growers, they gained a deep understanding of the GROWx ecosystem. This allowed then to define a reliable and feasible starting point, and to determine the steps needed to realize the FaaS solution, including data strategy, an implementation roadmap and a business case.

To support the planning and logistics of the seed sowing and growing of the produce, they designed the Plant Manager. The platform is powered by robotics and IoT-enabled sensors. It automates the seed sowing schedules and manages the capacity of the cells. They used advanced sensor technology and their digital twin capabilities for designing, building, monitoring and optimizing the lighting, watering and climate conditions of the vertical farm. A proper understanding of the optimal plant profile and influencing the time and yield of the produce leads to the vertical farm being operated completely automatically.

Building the Plant Manager

Together with GROWx, they formed a multidisciplinary agile team to work towards the realization of an MVP. They used an AWS-based, serverless microservice architecture to achieve a flexible, scalable and cost-effective system.

The first version of the Plant Manager was released at the beginning of 2021. It integrates the newest possibilities of data science (AI-driven collection and analysis of optimal growth scenarios) with centrally operating the day-to-day activities of a vertical farm. Combining different technologies, this system generates, captures, analyzes and learns from the data to optimize the plant’s growth. It also manages the farm’s automation, controlling the daily operations and production planning. It allows GROWx to fully manage the farming processes and to access the data smoothly and remotely.

Together, GROWx and INFO developed a vertical farm that is fully-automated, AI-driven, almost completely circular and with a cost price that can compete with regular farms. The whole concept is simple and efficient, and focuses primarily on plant growth and market demands. This is the first step on their long-term journey and partnership to help GROWx to become the world’s most cost-effective, high-quality and sustainable autonomous vertical farm.

Ard van de Kreeke, CEO at GROWx said:

INFO helped us really well with our Plant Manager. The team undertook a an enormously complex job in record time. We’re very happy that we extended our partnership for another three years. This way we can continue to benefit from their Agile method and IoT and cloud technology knowledge. By making a long-term commitment, we can optimize our business and innovate sustainably.

About INFO

INFO is a business innovation partner. They have been helping organizations grow their business through digital innovation since 1994.

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