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Motorleaf Uses AI to Predict Crop Yields for Indoor Farmers

Montreal-based startup Motorleaf wants to lighten the lift for indoor farmers by improving crop yield predictions and optimizing growing conditions. The company hopes that their software, which CEO and co-founder Ally Monk likens to a “virtual agronomist,” will take the uncertainty out of farming.

To do this, Motorleaf first gathers data on the grow environment through machine vision, agricultural sensors, and historical information. It then applies algorithms and AI to help farmers determine the adjustments they need to make to the indoor grow environment to optimize their crop. Which means farmers can monitor CO2 levels, light spectrum, and other atmospheric conditions remotely through wireless devices or laptops.

Customers can opt to install Motorleaf’s own hardware (a suite of IoT-enabled sensors), though they can also just connect the Motorleaf’s software to the farm’s existing pre-installed hardware to measure and remotely adjust environmental inputs. Its interoperability makes Motorleaf an easy tool for larger greenhouse operations, ones who already have their own monitoring hardware in place, to install. “At the end of the day, we are a software company,” said Monk.

Motorleaf claims that their software can cut yield prediction error by more than half — at least for some crops. Monk explained that each plant needs its own specialized software for yield prediction, likening farming to a recipe. “Maybe they think there’s a right recipe to growing kale; they need this many nutrients, this much light,” he explained. “We very strongly disagree with that. We think that any farming protocol needs to be dynamic, because if something happens in a greenhouse — which happens all the time — why would you stay rigid? You have to adapt.”

So far, their AI has only been proven to work for estimating tomato yield. However, they’re also deploying algorithms for peppers and silently developing technology for five other crops.

Monk explained that variable factors like sunlight, outside air temperatures, and human error can all affect greenhouse conditions. Even the plants themselves can do unexpected things that can affect their climate change.

Motorleaf got $100,000 Canadian dollars from the FounderFuel accelerator in the summer of 2016, and later that month Motorleaf raised $850,000 (US) for their seed round of funding. The startup is currently working with clients in Canada, USA, South Africa, South America, Mexico, Holland, Poland, New Zealand and the UK, and aims to be in Spain, France and Germany by early 2019.

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