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SBIR Phase I:Improving indoor agriculture grow light efficiency with adaptive light shaping

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 2304339
Agency Tracking Number: 2304339
Amount: $274,525.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: ET
Solicitation Number: NSF 22-551
Solicitation Year: 2022
Award Year: 2023
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2023-08-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2024-07-31
Small Business Information
2034 Henry Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15143
United States
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Andrew Rape
 (724) 816-1276
Business Contact
 Andrew Rape
Phone: (724) 816-1276
Research Institution

The broader/commercial impact of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is in accelerating the transition to a more sustainable food supply chain, which could democratize access to healthy foods and lessen food insecurity.The US system for growing and distributing fresh food is inefficient and insufficient in the context of climate change. Controlled environmental agriculture (CEA) is seen as a potentially revolutionary way to supply food demands with limited resources.Despite this promise, the high energy requirements of creating lighting and cooling in enclosed environments to support photosynthesis has caused CEA not to realize its promise.In the project, a novel solution to improve energy efficiency in CEA farms is proposed where advanced optics, machine learning, and computer vision are used to ensure that all of the light that is emitted by synthetic light sources is optimally used for plant photosynthesis and growth.The project offers a plausible way to create reliably profitable operations for CEA producers which would lead to enhanced access to fresh produce for consumers and decreased reliance on conventional agriculture to meet the world’s food needs._x000D_
Within current commercial grow systems for controlled environment agriculture, a substantial portion of the photons are wasted as they are not incident onto photosynthetically active biomass and are absorbed by the surrounding grow rack and media. This project will prototype and systematically test a light production system that dynamically shapes light such that it is rendered only onto the photosynthetic areas of the plant.To accomplish this, the project will develop and evaluate (within three crop varieties) a closed-loop system to autonomously detect the three-dimensional shape of the growing plant and dynamically adjust the light intensity and projection area to optimize power efficiency and biomass growth. Successful completion of the work in this project will result in a novel technology that is systematically tested to yield similar quality produce using a fraction of the energy consumption of current state-of-the-art systems.Deployment of this technology would help to improve the unit economics of controlled environment agriculture produce items and accelerate adoption of controlled environment agriculture farming practices that potentially consume less water, utilize land resources more efficiently, and eliminate the need for chemical pesticide/herbicide treatments._x000D_
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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