“We are continually pushing the boundaries of automated farming, doing whatever it takes to make growing more efficient,” says Alex Babich, CEO of Nuravine. Nuravine is an agtech company based in the state of New York and specializes in hydroponic nutrient dosing systems. Nuravine’s main product is the Alchemist, an automated nutrient doser designed to optimize the performance of recirculating systems for growers. “We started our business because we wanted to optimize vertical farming and help solve food crisis issues, yet most of our clients ended up being cannabis farmers.”
What does the Alchemist do?
Nuravine’s nutrient dosing system includes a smart controller, peristaltic pump modules, and a suite of reservoir sensors. Alchemist is the system’s monitor and controller. It consists of a capacitive touch screen, cloud connectivity, and an intuitive menu system.
The Alchemist is able to control Elixir 3-pump modules through its proprietary bus system which supports up to 127 unique devices, inducing future modules. Sensors are integrated to measure the pH, conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen (DO), and oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) of the water in which the plants are living.
A unique aspect of the system is its wide variety of use cases. It's flexible enough to be used in a small farm with tight space constraints and powerful enough to manage farms that are thousands of square feet. Using multiple sensors, combined with cloud connectivity, growers can monitor the real-time conditions of the plants and control the system remotely.
“Nuravine’s platform is designed to continually improve and will eventually become a full automation platform to control lights, HVAC, cameras, etc. This system will talk to the whole farm and make decisions based on multiple variables simultaneously. We started with water monitoring and dosing because it’s the most challenging part and has the greatest need for innovation,” says Babich.
A surprising interest from cannabis growers
As part of a government program (the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps), the Nuravine team got to travel around the US to visit growers. This would help them understand the challenges growers are facing, which they would then hopefully be able to solve with their technology. “A lot of the farms we visited were cannabis farms, which ended up being very interesting for us. We saw that the technology cannabis growers were using was outdated, in our opinion. They were in need of better ways to run their facilities. Especially under small and medium scaled growers, they have been very interested in our automated systems. And because our systems are more affordable compared to other companies, we are providing them an automated system they previously thought was inaccessible to them.”
According to Babich, saving water is an important benefit of their system, especially when it comes to the cannabis industry. “Most cannabis growers are doing drain to waste, meaning that whatever water comes out of the bottom of the bucket will go down the drain. There are some growers that are using recirculating systems, but the technology there is just not as good as we think it should be. Therefore, we have been focusing on those customers and improving their management of water and recirculation.”
Babich explains that the application of their system to cannabis is not much different compared to other plants. However, there are some important benefits for cannabis growers specifically. “A grower of leafy greens would typically use about three or four modular pumps of nutrient components, whereas a cannabis grower can need up to 15 components. That is a major benefit of our machine, you can use as many pumps as you want and the machine can dose each of those accurately.”
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Alex Babich, CEO