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Energy efficient agricultural hubs within smart cities

Utilize hardware-AI integration to enhance plants' quantity and quality, as well as connect hubs with smart cities' girds, (water, etc...)

Photo of Ibrahim El-chami
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Informedin Inc.

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

informedin.com

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Vancouver

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Canada

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The Merto Vancouver area 2700 km^2.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Canada

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

All team members grew up here. It's the place we call home, we're striving to maintain it as the province's slogan proclaims it to be, The Best Place on Earth.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

True sense of equality and multiculturalism. The people in Vancouver are historically among the more progressive Canadians, and lead by example. This is especially important, as Canadians often have to step in other nations' shoes to advocate for humans rights, vocally and through our contributions. Vancouver-based Carbon Engineering Ltd., has been receiving local and global recognition as leaders in green/cleantech. With around a third of cleantech startups starting out from British Columbia, BC is the the place for startups to grow. Vancouver also is also becoming more of hub when it comes to initiatives such as zero emissions initiatives, in terms of progressive policies as well as implementation. A few several conferences and events come to mind. An AI conference to start centralizing talents from across Canada and actively integrate AI in more solutions in the Canadian markets. A conference lead by a provincial office, to focus the future of mobility on integrating more electric vehicles- based mobility models and solutions, including public transportation electric busses fleets, as well as promoting electric shipping industry, where the goal is for shipping and container trucks become electric. A conference joining entrepreneurs from Vancouver and France, and calling for more global collaboration. The culture is unique, multiculturalism is well integrated into our communities. Harmony and acceptance of each others' cultures forms a bond among communities. I am aware of several multi-religious events, where community leaders and members of other religions are invited and welcomed into different religious-based events. With community harmony, comes a blend of amazing ethnic food and a cultural fusion that's well displayed in new types of dishes that arrive though it. Vancouver if well-known for these types of fusion foods as well as the vast collection of ethnic restaurants.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

2500000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

By 2050, major concerns arise with the inability of current agricultural forms to produce sufficient yields to accommodate the substantial growth in population amidst significant socioeconomic migration away from farmlands, where the average farm size is in continuous decline. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated food production will have to increase by 70% by 2050 to accommodate the population increase. In addition to climate change effects including severe weather conditions and flooding, major concerns of speculations regarding food production with estimations that nearly half of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030. Other major challenges include the high cost of crop production and farm operations as well as the inefficient management of natural recourses leading to an overuse and overburden of resources, such as water use in irrigation, and decrease in soil quality to the point where lands become non-arable. However, power supply and energy generation required for smart agriculture systems, namely, energy demands to power irrigation, heating, mechanical, communications, and monitoring systems introduce further operational challenges. In addition, water scarcity, treatment, and transport may also pose additional challenges requiring additional water management operations. Thus, feasible solutions in agriculture and energy generation and optimization are urgently needed to address major global challenges within the next few decades.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The project utilizes hardware-AI integration to increase plant production quantity and quality through monitoring and autonomous control of several parameters in agriculture, including automated growth and energy optimization and resources management, especially essential in remote locations. The final goal of the integration of the standalone energy, water, and agriculture management solutions is for the system to run autonomously, as it learns and optimizes energy and growth parameters over time (from local and online datasets) using reinforcement learning (machine learning). With the significant increase in plant production rate as well as quality enhancements, the energy optimization and water management will reduce agricultural demand on natural resources. In addition, the communication setup we’re introducing to agricultural stations allows for smoother integration of agriculture within a smart city’s central network, thus, connecting the stations with the city’s smart infrastructure, which includes the city’s smart water networks. An example of such network is imec’s City of Things in Antwerp, Belgium, where different aspects of smart infrastructure contributes to the city’s network.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Our unique solution, energy efficient autonomous agriculture, reduces operations costs, as efficient and optimized remote monitoring and control system also regulates and reduces the dependency on natural resources used as well as subsequent damage to resources. The solution may provide the ideal solution in our rapid socioeconomic and climatic transitions, as it also provides the necessary technology required for the system to be powered using renewable energy resources and the data communications required for integration within smart city grids. The technology makes tasks easier for workers to do their tasks as well as creates new tasks, thus, ensuring job security for labourers in the agriculture industry. There are a handful of smart cities in the world, and energy efficient autonomous agriculture integration with smart city application is globally unique, and would be a first in BC. MIT's open agriculture initiative has demonstrated the feasibility for precision agriculture to be implemented as well as produce around 300% more fruits and vegetables with enhanced quality, by optimizing growth parameters, without genetically modifying plants. With the associated power supply and energy generation required for smart agriculture systems, namely, energy demands to power irrigation, heating, mechanical, communications, and monitoring systems introduce further operational challenges for the system to be implemented on a wider scale. In addition, water scarcity, treatment, and transport may also pose additional challenges requiring additional water management operations. Thus, feasible solutions in agriculture and energy generation and optimization are urgently needed to address major global challenges within the next few decades. We believe a combination of energy, agriculture, and communication platforms may be able to address some of the posed challenges.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated food production will have to increase by 70% by 2050 to accommodate the population increase. However, the major concerns arise with the inability of current agricultural forms to produce sufficient yields to accommodate the substantial growth in population. In the last few decades, the average farm size in the majority of world countries is in continuous decline, with significant socioeconomic migration away from farmlands, where younger generations move away to cities to look for more secure ways to earn a living. Upcoming major concerns from scientists and several councils, including the UN declaring a sustainable development action to mitigate the effects of freshwater shortfall, as the expected 40% shortfall would mean that close to 2/3 of the world's population will be living in high water stress areas by 2030 with not enough access to freshwater, a vital component in agriculture. Furthermore, the major challenges in agriculture include the high cost of crop production and farm operations, including labour, pesticides/chemicals, and operational costs, as well as the inefficient management of natural recourses, leading to an overuse and overburden of resources, such as water use in irrigation, and decrease in soil quality to the point where lands become non-arable. All of which making reducing the profit margins for farmers, who are already struggling. Amidst all of the chaos, climate change effects are starting to become more noticeable in the last few years, as parts of the world were hit with record cold weathers followed by record high weathers, flooding, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, farmers' yields are in constant jeopardy. Thus, making unpredictability of yields a more vital parameter to the food security equation, and subsequent economics equation, as shortages of food will also yield unpredictability in markets. Further to all of the current and upcoming issues, humanity is yet again at an impasse. Climate change, along with other factors in the unpredictability of seasons, is not only heavily affecting wild life into extinction. With weather conditions becoming more extreme, environmental migrants is starting to become more common, as severe natural disasters are forcing people to leave their home regions suddenly, and at times for a long-term, where changes compromise migrants' well-being and livelihood. The World Bank estimates that Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia will generate 143 million more climate migrants by 2050. Such migrations will exacerbate humanitarian and food security crises. Thus, feasible solutions in agriculture and energy generation and optimization are urgently needed to address major global challenges within the next few decades. Agricultural systems would need to be optimized to be portable, generate higher quantities of food without sacrificing quality, setup to be powered using renewable energy, and be natural resources- efficient. MIT's open agriculture initiative has demonstrated the feasibility for precision agriculture to be implemented as well as produce around 300% more fruits and vegetables with enhanced quality, by optimizing growth parameters, without genetically modifying plants. The system is connected to global and local databases from farmers, botanists, and biologists, to provide the optimal growth conditions and parameters for the agricultural system. The precise agricultural system contains sensors and actuators to maintain plants within the provided optimization parameters. In attempting to build a similar system that is relatively portable, yet can be connected to local and online databases as well as smart city infrastructure, such as cities' smart water systems, challenges due to the associated power supply and energy generation required for smart agriculture systems, namely, energy demands to power irrigation, heating, mechanical, communications, and monitoring systems introduce further operational challenges for the system to be implemented on a wider scale. Furthermore, the energy sources to power the systems would also need to not rely on the existence on power grids or electricity infrastructure. Thus, a combination of energy, agriculture, and communication platforms need to be used to address some of the posed challenges. The proposed solution aims to address agricultural difficulties by utilizing current technologies and integrations to build a platform that would optimize growth factors to yield more produce using less resources. In addition, the energy platform ties in weather forecasting to predict current and forecasted energy generation, thus, auto-regulate energy consumption based on the predicted energy input. Both combined platforms allows for an agricultural systems to be implementable in remote locations, where the system can fully operate off-grid using renewable energy as the main source of power. Further, communication systems integrated into the agricultural stations allow for systems to be in continuous communication with databases for regular optimization updates as well as smart city infrastructure to monitor and control resources used, such as water for irrigation. We're currently working on the last stages of building some of the custom sensors before we install sensors in a number of farms in the region to pilot the system. A ($15,000) grant from Microsoft's AI for Earth was provided for the research collaborative approach to address some of the challenges above, with Ibrahim (CTO at informedin) as the lead researcher on the project, collaborating with researchers and scientists from universities and research institutions in Canada and Belgium. The grant allows researchers to use Microsoft Azure's platform to build an IoT setup as well as utilize Azure's cognitive services, including machine learning.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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Attachments (1)

current progress.pdf

Current progress on integrating agriculture and energy platforms.

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Spam
Photo of Christopher Bush
Team

Ibrahim El-chami We are here in BC (Abbotsfrod) and are building an applied research facility for zero waste agriculture. Our program is ALL about efficiency, and we will have a platform for technlogy development with anything that moves us towards the goal. We have connections in the greenhouse industry, as well as at UBC, KPU and SFU with focus on your space. Please let me know if there is anything we can do to serve. https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/food-system-vision-prize/open-submission/symbiosis-centre-for-zero-waste-agriculture

Spam
Photo of Ibrahim El-chami
Team

Christopher Bush Incredibly interesting stuff you're working on! We're more than happy to collaborate in any way we can as well!

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