7 iFarm laboratories
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iFarm Research Department is headed by Ruslan Provotorov, Chief agronomist and set off seven laboratories in Novosibirsk in which experiments take place for cultivation of greens, berries, flowers and herbs. Why is laboratory important and how it works.

Agronomists solve in laboratories three main tasks: select plant varieties for cultivation in iFarm industrial farms, create technological maps for the proper cultivation of selected crops and improve them so that technology customers can receive tasty and healthy produce and can earn more.

All experimental facilities are located in Novosibirsk. In two of them agronomists cultivate strawberries using four different ways. The sweetest strawberry is grown using drip irrigation system. Experiments are continuing.

At the beginning of 2019 the laboratory for cultivation of edible flowers was opened. Agronomists have grown beautiful violet, the carnation flower, ageratum, antirrhinum and others. Among the tasks is increasing the number of flowers in one plant.

In two sections of translucent greenhouse agronomists carry out experiments for cultivation of cucumbers and tomatoes using low-volume hydroponics method. Tomatoes become the tastiest after picking up a few days after ripening, it has incredible aroma and sweetness, we all know from the childhood. You could not find such tasty tomatoes in a store, because all of them were picked up green, to "survive" during transportation to a supermarket.
In two sections of translucent greenhouse agronomists carry out experiments for cultivation of cucumbers and tomatoes using low-volume hydroponics method. Tomatoes become the tastiest after picking up a few days after ripening, it has incredible aroma and sweetness, we all know from the childhood. You could not find such tasty tomatoes in a store, because all of them were picked up green, to "survive" during transportation to a supermarket.
Experimental salads and herbs in full swing at the labs
Research Department till the end of 2019 will prepare agricultural technology for cultivation of 60 leafy greens at vertical farms, among them are: basil, mint, bok choy, "superfood" cale, chard, "Romano" salad, the most crispy "Phryllis" salad, "Torn leaf" arugula, rosemary and true champion among the greens Lollo Rosa salad, full of magnesium and iron.

An experiment with one leafy green lasts for 135 days and consists of three stages. At the first stage an agronomist selects up to 15 producers, which seeds he wants to test for germination, plants 20 seeds of each variety in separate pots. In 45 days after greens are sprouted, crops with the best germination rate (95%-100%) are selected, after that the taste and how the plant looks like are assessed: the size of stem, leaf, total weight.
At the second stage the agronomist find out how much seeds you need for optimal plant weight. He takes 100 pots and plants five seeds into the first 20 pots, six into the second 20 pots, eight into the third, 10 into the fourth and twelve into the fifth. Over 45 days he decides what planting method is optimal, where the plant riches necessary weight, taste and its leaves do not interfere each other during its growth.

At the third stage the agronomist check the greens growth indicators. He takes 40 pots and plants there the optimal number of seeds found out at the previous experiment. If after 45 days mass, taste and length indicators are confirmed then the plant starts to be cultivated in industrial farms and delivered to consumers.

iFarm engineers provided the laboratories with special phyto-lighting, each lamp spectrum could be adjusted and each crop at it each stage of growth could receive individual light parameters. This experiment will be carried out along with check of plant growth indicators. Led lamps will be created by iFarm team based on the experiments data. The lamps will be delivered to the vertical farms for the most efficient cultivation of greens, berries and flowers.

The laboratories will also carry out six experiments on cultivation of garden and forest strawberries to find out the most effective way of cultivation and to develop the technological map.

In the plans for 2019 are continuing experiments for edible flowers cultivation. Our team will make the list of the most popular varieties, learn how to grow them and to get planned yield of 80 flowers per bush. Then will start deliveries to Siberian restaurants.

Pavel Zeeman (on the left) is in charge of finding the best engineering solutions Ruslan Provotorov (on the right) is responsible for the improvement of agronomic approaches.
Very soon one more interesting experiment will start in the laboratory — agronomist will try to grow tomatoes and cucumbers in completely isolated room under artificial light. Using this technology iFarm will be able to provide delicious vegetables, for instance to the residents of the Far North, where deliveries could be hardly provided: vegetables are delivered too long, often are damaged and the cost for it is 600 + rubles per 1 kg.

Heated discussions at the labs
Along with crops selection for industrial cultivation agronomists complete agrotechnological plants passports for it proper cultivation. It contains the crop name, number of seeds per pot, method of planting seeds to peat, the germination time under film and timing in the seedling area after removing the film, the type of pallet, timing in growth area, the type of packaging, the number of crops in corrugated packaging and notes.

After the crop is cultivated in industrial farms, agronomists begin optimizing the technological map to give iFarm technology buyers the possibility to earn more. "We carry out experiments with lighting, nutrition, temperature, substrates", says Ruslan Provotorov. "After we get results that allow increasing the plant's mass, cultivation of more plants for less time or reduce the consumables cost, we provide updated technological maps to industrial facilities all over the world".

Some part of experiments is carried out manually, but iFarm plans the fully automation. Software developer's team is working on the module "Agrotechnologist diary", special software for laboratory experiments.
The solution in a real time will fix all activities, associated with new varieties and crops cultivation, compare growth and microclimate parameters, attach photos, make text comments, and transfer information to a common base automatically for further processing both in manual mode and via artificial intelligence.

The module along with cameras and sensors on laboratory tiers can trains software artificial intelligence and makes creation of new ones and corrections of the current technological maps for growing in automated manner: to carry out experiments that improve the crops quality characters, optimize the cost, identify optimal time for harvesting and track deviation in the plant growth stage.
iFarn team carried out about dozen experiments during the last two years, that resulted in increasing of the plant growth efficiency, improving the cultivation cost. We have described one with radish in our blog, soon will mention the others.

iFarm develops laboratories at its own expenses. Due to the experiments the vertical farms buyers will update growing technologies and even new crops, will be able to grow greens, berries and flowers, getting high yields, using the planting area more efficiently, reduce expenses and increase profit. That's why our customers pay us royalty fee, which amount depends on the farm size.
We constantly work on improving the equipment (e.g fertigation unit) installed on the farms
Soon the laboratory in Moscow will be opened by iFarm team, there will be carry out experiments with the technology of "plucking" long-growing bushes. It can replace "removing the pots" technology, used on vertical farms. In autumn the first showroom and iFarm laboratory will be opened in Helsinki. You will hear about it soon.

19/07/2019