“Our growers want to use and integrate more data into their decision-making, but traditional sensors have often proven to be a problem; they can be expensive, and greenhouses are not always the best environments for electronics,” explains Niki Bennett of OGVG Innovation, Customization & Plant Protection from.
“The solution could be cheap disposable microsensors,” said DArezoo Emadi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Windsor and a pioneer in the development of high-performance sensor technology and electronic odor systems.
Emadi’s system detects volatile chemicals in the air to detect the presence of various pests and plant stressors long before they are visible to the human eye. Traditional crop protection relies on people in the greenhouse to visually monitor plants; even more automated systems currently available for greenhouses rely on vision technology, making Emadi’s electronic nose approach “very innovative,” Bennett said.
“Usually growers have around two humidity, temperature and light sensors per hectare of greenhouse; Emadi suggests hundreds of sensors per hectare, which would make a big difference in the quality and amount of data that growers can collect. Due to “the accuracy of crop exploration and reducing the labor required, this can really help automate the entire pest control in the greenhouse and allow growers to be proactive instead of responding with problems.”
Detection of pests
OGVG has previously worked with Emadi, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to identify specific volatile chemical compounds related to the detection of snout beetles.
The current study expands the portfolio of volatile substances that the system can detect so that it can detect a wider range of pests. It also learns to detect ethylene levels in the greenhouse, which affect ripening, to help with better crop forecasts.
“This is a teaching moment, so the more volatile he can pick up, the better his predictions will be,” she says. “There is already interest from the sector in the direction this is going and it is already having initial successes.”
The finished prototype was installed in a greenhouse in early 2022 for beta testing to validate the technology and its performance. The project is expected to be completed in November this year.
Observe more precisely
“Pest scouting is repetitive and difficult for humans, and this type of innovation will make work easier, more accurate and allow growers to take preventive action more quickly to reduce the impact of pests on their crops,” added Doug Alexander, president of agriculture. The Adaptation Council implements GCII. “It’s amazing to see the first technology of this type being tested in Ontario’s greenhouse horticulture, and I’m proud that GCII supports this innovative research.”
“Ontario’s modern horticultural companies are increasingly leveraging innovative technology to run their businesses,” said Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Projects like this, using inexpensive microsensors, will provide an innovative solution for greenhouses to implement cost-effective alternatives to automate pest control and help the industry be more competitive.”
This project is supported through the Greenhouse Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative, a cost-sharing program funded by the Ontario Government and implemented by the Agricultural Adaptation Council on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
For more information:
Agricultural Adaptation Council
381 Elmira Road North, Unit 1
Guelph, ON N1K 1H3
+1 519 822 7554