A connected greenhouse that combines permaculture and aquaponics techniques to achieve the best yields
22 square metres of greenery and tranquillity, offering an escape from the city’s noises and pollution, where fish and vegetables share the space harmoniously in a rich mini-ecosystem, producing salad plants, fruit, vegetables or herbs all year round. All widely accessible, from individuals to local municipalities or businesses looking to take back control of their food by producing part of it themselves with minimum time and maximum ease-of-use. Because the greenhouse is connected, it can guide users step-by-step to ensure the best possible yields…
Growing and consuming with complete confidence, even in the city
But how did this idea take shape and how has a traditional concept – greenhouse – been overhauled with agroecology techniques and digital technology? To understand this, we need to go back a few years to when myfood’s founders, including Johan Nazaraly, were fresh out of school and found themselves faced with a situation. As Johan explains: “In the past few years, we have seen a gradual erosion of supply chains and traceability in terms of what we are consuming. We are talking about food and nutrition because people have less and less confidence in what they are eating. So, we came up with an idea and goal to produce and consume without fear and with a sense of security. And this should be everywhere, even at the heart of cities, when we are short of time, space and knowledge.” A challenge that myfood is ensuring an effective response to by combining the best features of agricultural techniques with the operational benefits offered by the internet of things.
Permaculture, aquaponics… and sensors
While this start-up uses a greenhouse structure that has existed for decades, it optimises plant yields by opting for permaculture and aquaponics techniques and vertical growing to save space. Aquaponics can be found at the heart of the greenhouse, where vertical plants towers rise up above a tank filled with fish. This highlights the outstanding symbiosis between these living organisms, where the waste products and excrement produced by the fish provide nutrients for the plants, irrigated with water from the tanks. So, there is no need for fertiliser and the ecosystem covers its own requirements within a closed circuit. Next to the fish tank, permaculture beds add to the greenhouse’s production capacity. And myfood has carried out extensive research to find the best possible substrate – the support structure for connecting and nourishing the plants. “Two years of research were needed,” adds Johan. “The substrate we chose in the end is made up of organic compost, biochar, vermicompost and ramial chipped wood (RCW) mulch”, which gives a soil just like the one found in forests. By combining the best features of agroecology and vertical growing, the greenhouse delivers exceptional results: producing several hundred kilograms of vegetables each year, covering the needs of a family of four for a good part of the year. All for minimum maintenance and upkeep, with just 1.5 hours per week.
Autonomy is also a key feature, because myfood offers the option to fit semi-transparent photovoltaic panels to supply the energy needed for the irrigation system and sensors in particular.
Orange and myfood get connected
Another specific feature of the connected greenhouse is the way it uses the internet of things, which makes all the difference for users. Laurent Chivot, anticipation project Manager at Orange explains: “Several sensors are set up inside the greenhouse: connected to the best possible network infrastructure available – 2G or LoRa – they measure and track data relating to the water or air temperature or even the pH levels in the tanks. These data are then sent to a server, where they are compiled and analysed with artificial intelligence. They can then be shared with users through a smartphone, PC or tablet app, providing advice and analysis to guide them to achieve the best possible yields, or even warnings if the sensors show that temperatures inside the greenhouse are too high, for instance.
Orange first connected with myfood at the Paris International Agricultural Show in 2017. This interest grew on both sides and eventually a connected greenhouse was set up at the Orange Gardens site. Since then, Orange has been supporting this young start-up to help it choose the best network and data storage platform solutions”.
Connected and collaborative
This is another distinctive feature of the myfood experience, because it capitalises on the ideas and feedback shared by all its users. A collaborative platform brings together users and expert agronomists. “Each greenhouse owner has access to the community, and everyone can share their contributions. They are what we call pioneers, who can all help develop and perfect our solution.” Collaboration and openness are also an integral part of the myfood state of mind, because all the greenhouse plans are open source.
Connected, smart, efficient, autonomous, eco-friendly, collaborative: the myfood greenhouse is all of this and more…