Automated data capture and modeling to achieve higher circularity and efficiency in the aeroponics plant growing industry.
Aeroponics is a method of growing plants without soil where roots are suspended in the air and irrigated with a nutrient-dense mist. It is a highly resource-efficient approach to growing nutritious food as it requires minimal water and energy and provides accelerated growth of plants. However, it is currently a manual process which limits the scalability and the ability to optimize the process for each plant and crop type. There is also considerable root waste at the end of the production cycle.
Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is a process where organic matter is converted to methane and CO2. AD provides an effective solution to treat organic waste, meet local energy demand, reduce waste, and improve air pollution. It provides a second life to materials that would otherwise be considered waste, and the CO2 produced can be connected to the aeroponics to provide optimal growing conditions.
We propose using automation, data capture and modelling, and optimization to combine aeroponics with bio-fuel generation, specifically through Anaerobic Digestion (AD). Using robotics to automate the processes (including the harvesting, separation and operation of the system), and creating a digital twin to perform the data capture and monitoring, we will be able to optimize this process.
We aim to create a demonstrator to showcase the technologies that can enable the combination of aeroponics and anaerobic digestion, validate the sustainability potential of the approach and identify the means of scaling up. Ultimately, we aim to propose methods for scaling up at a regional level.
By growing and optimizing the selection of crops, we aim to demonstrate a food growing system that has a net CO2 reduction, demonstrating a sustainable and circular approach to growing plant-based food.
Prof. Josie Hughes and Thomas Querro, Computational Robot Design & Fabrication Lab, https://www.epfl.ch/labs/create/