A 24-hour hackathon on Friday 1 June at research location Bleiswijk of Wageningen University & Research, featuring 14 international teams has determined which five teams will continue in this year’s Autonomous Greenhouses Challenge, organised by Wageningen University & Research. The five winning teams – deep_greens, AiCU, The Croperators, Sonoma and iGrow – will get access to an actual greenhouse in the second half of the year where they will have to remotely grow cucumbers via artificial intelligence (AI) using as little input (such as water, nutrients and energy) as possible.
Fourteen teams with some 90 members representing 15 nationalities participated in the 24-hour hackathon. Many teams were physically represented at the WUR location in Bleiswijk, while other members were connected to the event online via Skype, phone and email. Interestingly, the teams actively consulted each other and shared experiences, which contributed to an informal and innovative atmosphere.
The hackathon consisted of two elements: a team pitch and the net yield achieved during the hackathon. In the end, the jury selected five teams to participate in the next round in which they have to remotely grow cucumbers in a real greenhouse. They are:
- Deep_greens, a team of AI experts from Intel and horticultural experts from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (nationalities: United States, Ecuador, Argentina, India, Mexico)
- AiCU, a diverse team consisting of AI and horticultural experts and students from Eurotiss, NXP Semiconductors, IGMPR Flower, Parks & More, University of Twente and Wageningen University (China)[AR1]
- The Croperators, a team of professionals from Delphy and AgroEnergy and students from Wageningen University and InHolland (the Netherlands).
- Sonoma, a team of AI experts from Microsoft Research and students from Wageningen University and University of Copenhagen (Vietnam, India, the Netherlands, Germany).
- iGrow, a team of AI experts from Tencent and horticultural experts from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (China).
In the pitch, the teams had to present their scientific and applied approach to the actual autonomous management of a greenhouse with regards to climate, fertigation and cultivation. They were marked on their team composition (multidisciplinary, international, various companies/knowledge institutes and other important characteristics as defined by the jury) and their approach (new, functional, robust, scalable, use of AI).
The second part of the pre-selection process involved the hackathon results: the achieved net yield in euros. To participate, the teams were provided with a climate model and a crop growth model for cucumbers developed by WUR scientists to achieve a predetermined goal.
The organisers had ensured that the models contained so many possibilities that it created a game-like situation. It was theoretically feasible, for example, to make a financial profit ten times higher than farmers can currently achieve in practice.
Using their own algorithms, the teams had to determine their own ideal setpoints for temperature, light quantity, CO2 concentration and a number of growth-related parameters, such as plant and stem density and growth period.
Note for the editor
Erik Toussaint, press officer of the Plant department of Wageningen University & Research,
T: +31 651 56 59 49
Fifteen teams have registered to participate in the Autonomous Greenhouses challenge organised in the research greenhouses of the WUR in Bleiswijk by Wageningen University & Research this year. In total, the teams comprise 90 individuals representing 15 nationalities from across the globe.
Many of the teams include members who work for companies based outside of the Netherlands, such as Microsoft Research, Intel or Tencent, while others represent well-known names from Dutch horticulture, like Delphy, AgroEnergy, LetsGrow, Philips Lighting or Syngenta, or come from start-ups. The teams also include several breeders with lots of practical experience.
In general, the team members are experts in horticulture or artificial intelligence, or have a background in engineering or design. The number of BSc, MSc and PhD students is relatively high, and they represent a wide range of institutions, such as Seoul National University, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Humboldt University of Berlin, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, South China Agricultural University and, of course, WUR.
The following teams have registered to participate: A Team, AiCU, Huxley, B-Mex, Deep Greens/UNAM, greenHU, iGrow, Modo, SNUPHPF, Sonoma, South China Future AG, The Croperators, The new (cu)cumbers, We Grow and Young Data Driven Growers.
On 31 May and 1 June, the 15 teams will take part in the pre-challenge: a 24-hour hackathon. Based on the results, an international jury will shortlist five teams to go through to the next round. This will involve breeding cucumbers remotely in a dedicated greenhouse section at the WUR in Bleiswijk using intelligent algorithms, models and sensors, with as little human interference as possible,
The challenge is sponsored by Tencent, a leading provider of internet services in China, and David Wallerstein, CXO of Tencent.