Growy Builds Circular and Autonomous Vertical Farms with Automated Robotics on AWS
Growy is a Netherlands-based startup that builds fully automated vertical farms where robots tend to the plants instead of humans. The autonomous farms grow plants to order, selling their salad mixes, fresh herbs, and microgreens to local supermarkets, restaurants, and hotels.
Farming is a low-margin business. To remain competitive, Growy needs to grow produce more economically than both traditional and other vertical farms. It does this by reducing the number of people required to tend to plants—instead using robots to perform seeding, watering, feeding, and harvesting tasks. The company also wanted to replicate the approach and quickly launch new farms around the world that it could control from its Amsterdam headquarters.
To build a scalable infrastructure and support its automated agricultural methods, Growy turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS). Using AWS, it’s launched an automated vertical farm and created a cost-efficient system that can operate multiple vertical farms.
With very little work, we can add more processing power, storage, and other services when we need them. Using AWS, our life is easier.”
Head of Development, Growy
Reducing Costs as Robots Tend to Plants
Growy cultivates its plants in specialized facilities where they’re protected from insects and contamination, so they don’t require pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Light, temperature, CO2, and humidity are kept at optimum levels to create an ideal growing environment, which maximizes production and quality.
Robots equipped with cameras and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors monitor the plants by taking photos and measuring aspects of plant health, such as water levels, nutrition, and growth on a regular basis.
Growy uses AWS IoT Events—a fully managed service that makes it easy to detect and respond to events from IoT sensors and applications—to collect, store, and analyze more than 1 million data points a year. The system references plant profiles and instructs the robots to make any necessary adjustments in plant care or environmental conditions.
If one of the robots discovers a plant with yellowing leaves, for instance, Growy uses machine learning (ML) capabilities to instruct the robots to adjust the watering schedule, nutrition levels, or amount of light to help the plant recover.
With its automated system, Growy can manage costs by using fewer staff to care for plants. “Most vertical farms have higher overheads than us because they need to hire a lot of people to look after the plants,” says Jochem Meuwese, head of development at Growy. “We don’t have that issue because we’ve automated our manual processes. This means we can sell our produce for lower prices than many competitors.”
Growy also controls costs by using AWS Fargate, a serverless, pay-as-you-go compute engine, and AWS Lambda, a serverless, event-driven compute service. This means Growy only pays for the resources it uses, helping it to keep its infrastructure management overheads low.
Using Data To Grow the Best Produce
Growy requires a reliable 24/7 infrastructure to ensure the continuous care of its plants. “If we have network outages or lose our connection to the cloud, we might lose plants,” says Meuwese. “A plant may be fine if it misses one watering session, but by the time the third watering is missed, we have a damaged product. We’ve experienced solid reliability using AWS.”
Growy aims to grow plants that look and taste better than those produced by its competitors. It does this by tracking different combinations of nutritional and environmental conditions and analyzing the data to discover optimal growing processes. It has learned, for instance, that feeding plants nutrient-rich water means it can manage up to 14 grow cycles a year in a single location.
Growy’s farming processes are continuously evolving based on these insights. “For us, growing plants is a data-driven process,” said Meuwese. “Using AWS, we can make use of data to grow the best quality produce at the best possible prices.”
Building Farms Around the World Using AWS
Growy built its first farm in Amsterdam as a testbed to fix any technical issues in its farming system. After perfecting the technology, it plans to launch additional farms worldwide. “We’re not in the business of building a farm. We’re in the business of building multiple farms,” says Meuwese. “This expansion is easier for us using AWS.”
When opening farms, Growy partners with a local company to set up the building using specifications from its Amsterdam facility. It then adds that farm’s IT systems into its AWS infrastructure, so it can be monitored and controlled by a team in Growy’s Amsterdam headquarters. “Using AWS, we don't need to spend a lot of time updating our infrastructure for new farms,” says Meuwese. “Instead, we can run the automation of multiple farms from one logistics center. When we launch a facility, it’s almost just another record in our database.”
This means Growy doesn’t need additional staff for each farm it runs. It also minimizes the number of employees required at the remote facility, where their main role is building maintenance.
Focusing on Agriculture Instead of Maintaining Servers
Growy plans to open vertical farms that are 40 times larger than the one in Amsterdam. It’s investigating setting up farms in Abu Dhabi, Austria, Dubai, Norway, Turkey, the UK, and the US.
As Growy builds farms around the world, its need for a reliable and scalable infrastructure and for intelligent IoT capabilities will only increase. Using AWS means the team has time to develop the innovative methods that will support the company’s evolution. “With very little work, we can add more processing power, storage, and other services when we need them,” says Meuwese. “Our staff can focus on agricultural innovation rather than being concerned about running our infrastructure. Using AWS, our life is easier.”
Growy is a startup based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, which builds and runs fully automated, and circular vertical farms. Its first farm is running at full capacity and it is building new farms in Europe, the Middle East, and the US.
Benefits of AWS
- Reduces costs by using robots to tend to plants
- Manages more than 1 million IoT data points a year
- Focuses on innovative agriculture processes instead of IT maintenance
- Experiences reliable infrastructure to operate farms 24/7
AWS Services Used
AWS IoT Events
AWS IoT Events is a fully managed service that makes it easy to detect and respond to events from IoT sensors and applications. Events are patterns of data identifying more complicated circumstances than expected, such as changes in equipment when a belt is stuck or motion detectors using movement signals to activate lights and security cameras.
AWS Fargate is a serverless, pay-as-you-go compute engine that lets you focus on building applications without managing servers. AWS Fargate is compatible with both Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS).
AWS Lambda is a serverless, event-driven compute service that lets you run code for virtually any type of application or backend service without provisioning or managing servers. You can trigger Lambda from over 200 AWS services and software as a service (SaaS) applications, and only pay for what you use.
IoT services for industrial, consumer, and commercial solutions—easily scale to billions of devices and trillions of messages.