Sponsored Content: Sensors help optimise growing conditions underground

Zero Carbon Farms runs a microgreens salad and herb growing operation in former WWII air-raid shelters in Central London. Through its sustainable growing and on-site packaging practices, and its supply to local retailers and restaurants, Zero Carbon Farms has exceeded its zero carbon footprint. In 2021 the firm secured “Carbon Neutral Plus” status.

Given the atypical growing environment 33m below ground, it is essential to monitor and optimise temperature, ventilation, humidity, irrigation and lighting conditions for the 14-plant varieties. It is also important to maintain a clean growing area free of bulky equipment and cabling that might introduce biohazards, impacting food safety.

Zero Carbon Farms is using Aranet wireless sensors for multiple reasons, including its easy installation and deployment (no hard wiring and simple pairing procedure to the router); flexbility (manoeuvrability of the sensors); compactness (small footprint and food-safe design); robustness (rugged sensor technology with IP67 enclosures); cost-effectiveness; high performance/ price ratio; low cost of ownership (changeover of batteries every 5-7 years); phenomenal wireless signal strength (one router for entire tunnel section); and its reliance on a PC- and cloud-based (remote) central monitoring system.

Data from the Aranet system and other instrumentation is fed into a data repository to create a time and spatial distribution data feed that not only maps the current environment but also predicts the future conditions in the growing tunnel up to three days ahead. This information is used to plan the most productive crop layout, for fine control of the growing environment using supplementary fans, heating or dehumidifiers and to enable early intervention to avoid situations which might otherwise have damaging consequences, for example, high temperature incoming air for ventilation during a summer heat-wave.