To begin with, in The Attack of the Tomato Engineers, talks about a team of process engineers from Analog Devices and some of the tremendous economic advantages they can take advantage of,
For years, farmers and restaurateurs in New England knew that their tomatoes didn’t stand up to those grown in other states, such as Florida and California. “It’s a known fact that a lot of the local farmers sell zero percent of their tomatoes to local restaurants and supermarkets,” O’Reilly said. “The majority of it becomes ketchup.”With a 10x increase in sales price if they can produce a better tomato, it's a really a tremendous opportunity. So Analog engineers attacked like any other process optimization. How do we optimize what he spend to earn 10x as much on a batch of tomatoes?
Indeed, it becomes ketchup, which means that New England farmers make about $0.40 a pound for their tomatoes, as opposed to the $4 per pound they’d get by selling them into restaurants and supermarkets.
“When the ADI guys came into the kitchen, it was like the Rolling Stones had arrived,” recalled Francis Gouillart, author of the blog, The Co-Creation Effect and founder of the Experience Co-Creation Partnership. “The tattooed chefs, looking at the engineers in their ADI outfits, were saying, ‘Who are these guys with their instruments?’”But farming isn't all about producing trendy tomatoes for urban hipster restaurants filled with austere young men in beards and flannel. It's also about using a very valuable resource (real estate) to produce locally-grown vegetables and fruits, too. In the last couple of months I've seen articles like this one on new indoor farming techniques that use "spare" building space inside big cities. It doesn't seem feasible right of top of my head that they could pay to run indoor lights that grow the food and still sell for a profit.
The “guys with the instruments,” however, left their mark. In part thanks to their work, a growing number of chefs and farmers in Massachusetts now talk about the “scientification of taste” as if it were an established branch of engineering. And as a result of ADI’s destructive analysis and its subsequent role in Massachusetts’ 31st Annual Tomato Contest in 2015, a select group of chefs and farmers now have a better understanding of the role chemistry plays in producing a tasty tomato. Moreover, ADI’s engineering team has since topped off its analysis with the creation of an electronic reference design aimed at helping farmers grow the kinds of tomatoes that end up on dinner tables.
If you're going to grow food indoors—especially in a windowless warehouse like the 30,000-square foot Green Sense Farms, one of Philips' customers—you'll need light. The LEDs provide a substitute for the sun, but they also go further; Philips designs "light recipes" that can make particular crops grow faster or produce more nutrients.Quartz reports this month the cost of quality LED lighting has fallen low enough to make it profitable to farm in a New Jersey night club!
"We can tailor these recipes to the photosynthesis response of the plant," says van der Feltz. "By being able to tweak the spectrum—the color the plants see—and put the lights exactly where they need it, we can dramatically increase yields and improve fruit density and quality."