Montreal-based startup Motorleaf has announced a partnership with Dutch greenhouse supplier Cultilene, to offer commercial greenhouses worldwide facilitated access to AI predictive technology. This announcement marks the launch of a global expansion campaign to connect large-scale producers of hydroponic tomatoes and peppers with new AI automation services.
“Cultilene enables us to make that handshake with greenhouse owners far and wide.”
Motorleaf uses data from greenhouse growing conditions to custom build technology that uses machine-learning algorithms to predict future greenhouse production levels. In addition to reducing the volatility of weekly harvest yields, the technology aims to help growers streamline operations, reduce costs, and retain agriculture expertise within smart software.
The resulting algorithm could automate harvest forecasting and provide crop yield predictions with 50 to 70 percent less error than estimates made by a human, according to the company.
“We are convinced that Motorleaf’s harvest forecast service has added value for tomatoe and pepper growers worldwide,” said Mariëlle Klijn, marketing manager at Cultilene. “That is why we are actively bringing this service to the attention of our customers. In addition, this harvest forecast service is a perfect example of ‘data-driven growing,’ one of the most pioneering developments within the global horticulture sector and a cornerstone objective of Cultilene.”
Founded in 2016, Motorleaf develops AI automation technologies for commercial greenhouses, including harvest yield forecasts, automated crop disease scouting and insights into growing conditions that cause blemishes in produce. The company serves clients in Canada, US, Japan, Tunisia, Germany, Belgium, and Holland. The company has added three new members to its less than 20-person team as a result of the new partnership, and CEO and co-founder of Motorleaf Alastair Monk told BetaKit the company is looking to add more software developers and graphic designers.
Last May, the company raised $2.85 million in seed funding to build up its platform providing data analytics to greenhouse operators, in a round led by ag-tech accelerator Radicle Growth, with participation from Desjardins Capital, Real Ventures, Fluxunit, and 500 Startups Canada.
“This is the turning point, not just for our company but for the industry.”
— Alastair Monk
“Agriculture is totally different from the tech sector. Tech companies are expected to scale with ease using online platforms and digital tools. The fact is that farming remains a personal industry that prefers to seal deals with a handshake between well-known neighbours,” said Jennifer De Braga, head of global client experience at Motorleaf. “Cultilene enables us to make that handshake with greenhouse owners far and wide.”
The agriculture industries in North America and the EU face a looming labour crisis estimated to reach over 100,000 missing workers by 2025 in Canada alone, according to the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council’s Labour Market Information survey. Growing shortages of both skilled and unskilled workers impede economic growth and result in significant crop losses and food waste. Once trained with sufficient data, Motorleaf’s algorithm hopes to provide a means to retain expertise and knowledge required for harvest forecasting that was once exclusive to highly-skilled agronomists.
“This is the turning point, not just for our company but for the industry,” Monk said. “So many companies will say ‘we are building AI,’ or ‘we are testing AI.’ [Our AI technology] is on the market, and sits with existing infrastructure, so any greenhouses can use it.”
Motorleaf will also be releasing additional products called “custom insights,” which involve reverse engineering the yield predictions to understand why things are happening in a greenhouse that agronomists don’t – such as the onset of disease and pests. The company has also been selected to present at the Fruit Logistica trade show in Berlin from February 6 to 8.
The company currently works with hydroponic pepper and tomato growers, but is currently testing its product with cucumbers and cannabis.
This article originally appeared in Betakit