NEW ERA OF SOILLESS AGRICULTURE BEGINS
IUE entrepreneurs add a new dimension to farming by combining soilless agriculture with plant lighting and software. The “Smart Garden” titled project of Mert Kalaycı, student at M.Sc. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering Program of Izmir University of Economics (IUE), under the guidance of IUE Vice Rector, Prof. Dr. Murat Aşkar, focuses on growing variety of vegetables, fruits, and industry plants including tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, saffron, etc.
Prof. Dr. Aşkar and Kalaycı, who established “UpTechlabs” R&D Company at IUE Izmir Sciencepark and METU Technopark as part of the project, received a grant of 150 thousand TL within the scope of TUBITAK’s 1512 Multiphase Entrepreneurship Grant Program. Thanks to the project, crop losses reaching up to 40% in agriculture will end via soilless agriculture in and use of LED.
Kalaycı gave information about the project and he said that the lighting system of the project was a combination of climate control, soilless agriculture, and innovations of Industry 4.0. “In soilless agriculture, we can provide the wavelength of light needed for photosynthesis of the plant at a desired dimension via LED by spending less energy. Whereas a regular plant require a sunbathing 8 to 10 hours, by using LED, we can increase this time to our desire. This way, plants can grow much faster. It also allows harvesting same amount of crops in both summer and winter. Various sensors on the system runs automatically with the equipment and software we developed. We can also control it remotely with the help of smart phone-tablet. We applied for patent,” said Kalaycı.
‘2.5 times rapid growth’
Kalaycı reported that existing farming regions were being utilized carelessly, however, need for food was increasing day by day. Kalaycı stated the following:
“There are approximately 7.5 billions of people on earth. Global food and water shortages are expected around 2050. Smart Garden project is a production facility with a LED technology, which works with maximum efficiency in a minimum space. Information on soilless agriculture is available whereas there is little information on plant lighting. We are applying different feeding strategies under wavelength of light specific to plants, different volumes of light, and controlled environmental conditions. We store data regarding the plants in the database. The LED lighting system allows 2.5 times more rapid growth compared to regular growing, aeroponic system allows using up to 95% less water, and the modular system allows growing 30 times more products in a unit area.”
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