Design, Iterate, Educate

 

Technology in Action

The pictured above is a video displaying the efforts and deployment of this type of shelving technology at Mirai, Inc. located in Miyagi prefecture Japan. This was one of the first applications of this type of technology that we’d come across in our search for confirmation that we weren’t the only company to think of this concept. As university students, our founders, drew a lot of inspiration from the capabilites and operations of Mirai, Inc. and started to delve into what it must cost in order to provide those 10,000 heads of lettuce every day.

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Unit Cost

When we said “with the necessary supplies to provide everything a growing plant needs throughout its life cycle…” we spent a lot of time educating ourselves on all of the different things plants need in order to prosper and grow. In other words, you can’t just take a shevling system, plop it down somewhere, put plants and soil on each shelf and expect them to grow without anything else. In our research to understand their needs we found that plants need sunlight, at least two specific wavelengths of visible light at 430-450 nm in the blue spectrum and 640-680 nm in the red spectrum. They need a consistent supply of water, not necessarily constant, but that if the water had micro-nutrients then it could feed as well as hydrate the plants. One of our co-founders, Ame Arakaki, decided to study further into the field of biology in order to better understand the needs of plants. During her studies she fell in love with the synergy between plants, aquatic animals, and ecosystems. Being a mechanical engineer it felt natural to apply her creativity in physics and mathematical principals to interweaving a mechanical tapestry that connects all living things. She discovered the field(s) of science called Aquaponics and Aquaculture. This line of investigation led us to make connections with our marine biology consultant as well as our food nutrition consultant. With our expertise we delved more specifically into the operations by Mirai, Inc. to understand what kind of nutrients their hydroponic process utilized, as well as the mechanical processes that controlled the airflow, temperature, and humidity within the grow-room. Coupled with our own experience and deployment of shelved systems we came to develop a unit cost formula that accurately describes how much in resources it would cost or save versus traditional farming methodology. Our finding was that the unit cost per production of a single head of lettuce was more profitable and economical using a shelving system than traditional farming by a factor of 4.9 on average. above is one of our early shelving designs that we built and tested in order to verify the unit cost to benefit ratio algorithm.

 

A-Frame

Comcrop is one of the first companies in the world to utilize the cubic efficiency of an A-Frame versus a shelving system. In the same amount of square footage, and a very steep angle, it’s possible to double the harvest quantity. Depending on the design of the system, in our experience, it is also possible to reduce the number of lighting sources (for indoor crop production only), electricity, and water consumption.