Lettuce Production in Intelligent Greenhouses—3D Imaging and Computer Vision for Plant Spacing Decisions

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Recent studies indicate that food demand will increase by 35–56% over the period 2010–2050due to population increase, economic development, and urbanization. Greenhouse systems allow for the sustainable intensification of food production with demonstrated high crop production percultivation area. Breakthroughs in resource-efficient fresh food production merging horticultural and AI expertise take place with the international competition “Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge”. This paper describes and analyzes the results of the third edition of this competition. The competition’s goal is the realization of the highest net profit in fully autonomous lettuce production. Two cultivation cycles were conducted in six high-tech greenhouse compartments with operational green house decision-making realized at a distance and individually by algorithms of international participating teams. Algorithms were developed based on time series sensor data of the greenhouse climate and crop images. High crop yield and quality, short growing cycles, and low use of resources such as energy for heating, electricity for artificial light, and CO2 were decisive in realizing the competition’s goal. The results highlight the importance of plant spacing and the moment of harvest decisions inpromoting high crop growth rates while optimizing greenhouse occupation and resource use. In thispaper, images taken with depth cameras (RealSense) for each greenhouse were used by compute rvision algorithms (Deepabv3+ implemented in detectron2 v0.6) in deciding optimum plant spacing and the moment of harvest. The resulting plant height and coverage could be accurately estimated with an R2 of 0.976, and a mIoU of 98.2, respectively. These two traits were used to develop a light loss and harvest indicator to support remote decision-making. The light loss indicator could be used as a decision tool for timely spacing. Several traits were combined for the harvest indicator,ultimately resulting in a fresh weight estimation with a mean absolute error of 22 g. The proposed non-invasively estimated indicators presented in this article are promising traits to be used towards full autonomation of a dynamic commercial lettuce growing environment. Computer vision algorithms act as a catalyst in remote and non-invasive sensing of crop parameters, decisive for automated,objective, standardized, and data-driven decision making. However, spectral indexes describing lettuces growth and larger datasets than the currently accessible are crucial to address existing shortcomings between academic and industrial production systems that have been encountered in this work.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2929
Number of pages30
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2023


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