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From the Crops’ Perspective: A conversation with Laura Bautista on being the bridge between science and growers.

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Engaging with Laura Bautista, a key figure and project leader at Delphy, a leading research and consultancy firm, we delve into the world of indoor farming.

This rapidly evolving sector, marked by both promises and challenges, is vividly brought to life through Laura's insights and highlights Delphy’s integral role in supporting growers around the globe. Laura’s journey from agricultural engineering to farm management, culminating in a Ph.D. in plant health, underpins her role as a crucial bridge between scientific theory and horticulture practice on an international level. Her diverse experiences form the foundation for a career that’s driven by her curiosity and passion for problem-solving.

Entering Delphy's indoor strawberry farm felt like stepping into a futuristic world. The facility, with its soft pink lighting and meticulous care for every plant detail, felt like a glimpse into the future of farming; where crops are grown without the use of natural daylight. This immersive environment showcases Delphy's commitment to precision and deep understanding of plant needs. Each of the employees are highly knowledgeable and dedicated to their craft. Here, where the progress of each crop is measured and dipped in the pink light of perfect growing conditions.

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Laura's career intersected with Delphy through professional networks and recommendations.

Her role at Delphy aligns perfectly with her passion for connecting data, cultivation knowledge, and practical solutions. She describes her multifaceted role as challenging yet fulfilling, "It's difficult because I'm a little bit of everything," illustrating the complexity of translating science into real-world solutions. Delphy has one hectare of research facilities with 90% of them being high-tech greenhouse compartments of different scales, and 10% are indoor farms of different scales for research in a fully controlled environment. 


For over a decade, Priva's Horticulture technologies help to control the greenhouse areas. The recently built indoor farm is equipped with Priva's Building Automation technologies, to control the LED lighting and the HVAC-system (humidity, ventilation, air conditioning). It enables Delphy to create the least stressful environment for the crops.


Next to this, vegetable crops (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant) take about 70% of the research and compartments. To a lesser extent, Delphy cultivates strawberries, leafy greens (lettuce, herbs), and ornamental plants (chrysanthemum and pot plants).

Hereafter, Laura discusses Delphy's use of predictive models in autonomous growing. These models enable growers to plan cycles, predict harvests, and maintain optimal conditions. Laura also discusses the challenges in standardizing knowledge exchange in indoor farming and the research efforts towards developing universal protocols.

"We're investigating how to standardize crop cultivation in this new system, transferring knowledge regardless of farm or technology."

There are many challenges in indoor farming.

Higher costs associated with new technology, energy consumption and the need for commercial viability add layers of complexity. Laura articulates these early-stage challenges and Delphy's ongoing quest for sustainable indoor farming practices. A pivotal element in Delphy's operations is the Priva Connext system, a technological cornerstone for climate, water, and energy management within their farms. It integrates various components, allowing remote control, supervision, and immediate notifications for proactive adjustments. 


Developments towards Autonomous Growing, stress the need for consistent and precise measurements to counter labor shortages. She emphasizes climate sensing as a foundational step, using advanced sensors and technology for detailed environmental control. At Delphy, research and experimentation mimic real-world conditions faced by commercial growers, leading to actionable insights and reduced human intervention in controlling the processes. 


Laura explains, "You basically have a map of your farm, twenty-four hours with data every five minutes without needing someone physically measuring. This allows for rapid detection and prevention of plant stress."

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With their research, Delphy translates science into real world solutions. Standardizing knowledge exchange holds the key to making a global impact.

To tailor solutions to individual client needs, Delphy adopts a 'crop-centric' approach from the ground up.

Considering each client's unique requirements and the crop’s most favorable growing conditions, they develop customized cultivation strategies, with the crop's optimal conditions as a constant reference point. Laura points out the shift from traditional greenhouse practices to this approach, emphasizing sustainability goals and the importance of experiential learning at Delphy.


External factors such as policies, particularly those related to energy usage and water efficiency, have influenced cultivation priorities. Laura emphasized the need to cultivate the same crop with reduced energy and/or less water, aligning with sustainability goals.

Even in a tech-driven environment, Laura highlights the irreplaceable role of human insight, particularly in areas where AI falls short: "For decision-making, we still need a human brain." This balance between technology and human judgment is key in navigating the complexities of plant growth.

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"Why are we doing research? Why are we doing consultancy? Why are we developing things? It's to help humanity at times that it’s needed".

Inside Delphy’s indoor farm, Laura concludes the interview by reflecting on the broader purpose of their work, emphasizing the ongoing commitment to humanity and problem-solving in a changing world: "No matter how many challenges we solve, there will be always more to come. They will be just different because things evolve, and we must keep on adapting".



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