Hardware - Closed production system
by Urban Crop Solutions
A sealed building to grow crops combined with human habitation
Urban Crop Solutions will design and eventually engineer a variable climate biosphere, a hermetically sealed building in which different climatic conditions can be simulated to support the growth of a diverse range of crops, combined with human habitation.
The major difference between this envisioned space habitat and Urban Crop Solutions’ current vertical farm systems is the integration of gas-exchange with human beings, while maintaining and even strengthening all aspects of food safety and resource use efficiency. Urban Crop Solutions and Magics Instruments will also work on the development of an AI algorithm to optimize crop growth and minimize the resource inputs.
Research use efficiency through data
UCS will maximise the usable biomass yield while reducing the input resources as much as possible. The research capacity (10 R&D growth rooms) from UCS, combined with the expertise on Artificial Intelligence from Magics, will ensure the quality and relevance of the approach and results in this project. While UCS will take care of plant measurement and sensor data collection, Magics will utilise the data to train an AI model for plant growth using machine learning techniques. By leveraging the existing know-how of plant growth trials conducted by UCS during the last seven years, the development speed of this AI algorithm can be increased and will result in the optimisation of plant biomass production whilst using less resources. This is not only valuable for when we want to live on Mars, but also as important on planet earth. The AI crop growth algorithm will reduce the number of trials needed to define optimal growth recipes for hydroponically grown crops. This will allow for faster screening of new types of plants and enlarge the scope of products which can be grown efficiently (and profitably) indoors, beyond the current leafy greens.
Meet the Urban Crop Solutions expert team
Founder & CTO
Maarten Vandecruys is the founder and CTO of Urban Crop Solutions. After completing his Master in Business (Ehsal), in 2014 he also achieved a Master in General Management at the Vlerick Business School. Through extracurricular activities, he executed market research and marketing for several Flemish organizations. Since 2012, he has conducted extensive research on the subject of urban agriculture and established contact with knowledgeable parties in the field. Next to this Maarten has been initially testing various urban farming approaches including aquaponics, hydroponics and rooftop greenhouse farming. Over the last six years he further developed his knowledge and expertise in all technologies related to indoor vertical farming.
Plant biotechnologist (PhD)
Dr. Oscar Navarrete is a plant biotechnologist with expertise in plant research in various crop varieties. His knowledge from research goes from crop nutritional improvement to cultivation and improvement of tropical varieties with a wide range of techniques such as in vitro culture, high-throughput, bioassays, among others. During his work in Ecuador as principal investigator, he was granted (VLIR-UOS funds) to conduct research on banana crop improvement.
Additionally, he studied bacterial communities from different agricultural regions using metagenomics as well as research on in-vitro propagation of cacao and coffee plantlets. For these projects he also collaborated with different research groups and coordinated research on a national scale through government backed research networks with different institutions. Dr. Oscar Navarrete oversees the biological R&D department at Urban Crop Solutions. His research is focused on crop growth performance under different environmental conditions, as well as lighting conditions. In addition, research is also focused on high value crops, medicinal plants, and resource efficiency.