Booming IoT Use in Agriculture Leads to Blooming Orchids

Orchids need a specific climate and environment to grow, so one California nursery turned to a system capable of monitoring and quickly adapting to environmental changes. The KMC Commander system automates activities and monitors environmental stimuli to ensure Matsui’s orchids successfully bloom and grow. 

 

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Image credit: KMC Controls/Matsui Nursery video

Growing orchids is not as simple as it may seem. Matsui Nursery in Salinas, CA, operates a massive amount of greenhouse space, over two million square feet, and produces millions of orchids a year. Within Matsui’s greenhouses, there are hundreds of varieties of orchids. Human and technological monitoring of Matsui’s greenhouses is necessary for successful orchid production. 

If temperatures change, Matsui needs to know. Orchids require a specific and stable environment to grow. To maintain the perfect growing environment in its greenhouses, Matsui uses tools such as ventilation, curtains, and window chalk to keep temperatures stable throughout the year. However, weather conditions are neither predictable nor consistent, and despite the company's efforts, it can be devastating to an orchid's development. To mitigate this problem, Matsui turned to KMC Controls to upgrade and automate its existing greenhouse monitoring system. 

 

Plant, Water, and Monitor

The nursery integrated the KMC Commander system, an open IoT and automation platform built on the Dell® Edge Gateway 3000 series and Intel® technology. The system collects various data points using sensors, devices, controllers, and building systems. The data is sent to an AWS-powered cloud service, where KMC’s technology tracks and analyzes it, looking for trends and triggers. The data can then be viewed on any device with an Internet connection using HTML5. 

At Matsui’s orchid greenhouses, the KMC Commander system monitors environmental factors such as temperature, light, humidity, and air flow. The Commander system also looks for equipment malfunctions, such as temperature control vents not functioning properly. 

Man tending orchids in nursery

Image credit: KMC Controls/Matsui Nursery video

Additionally, the KMC system allows operators to set custom schedules for connected devices, such as when to open or close vents. Environmental inconsistencies could result in the loss of thousands of orchids and the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars, so Matsui sought a system that quickly responds to environmental changes.

Automating Orchid Production

The easy set up of the KMC Commander system was key for Matsui. Alvarez Technology Group, a systems integrator and KMC Controls partner based in Salinas, CA, handled the installation of the KMC Commander System at Matsui. Alvarez Technology installed and connected the sensors and modules to the KMC Commander system, enabling Matsui staff to access the system through a browser. Using the web-based dashboard, the staff can view nursery data and monitor greenhouse conditions in real-time. 

“The KMC Commander system, especially with the Control Basic programming, provides the foundations and a nice open area to play around with,” says Michael Lopez, Matsui’s agricultural engineer, in a recent interview. “KMC provides the bricks and the tools and say, have at it--build whatever you like. Customization is one of the best components that we could have to address our more troublesome parts of running a nursery 85 acres in size.”

The customizable nature of the KMC Commander system gave Matsui a lot of freedom within its greenhouses. KMC’s Control Basic program made it easy for Matsui to centralize and automate operational control, which can increase energy efficiency and reduce operational costs. 

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