Richmond, Virginia, 5.16.21 — In the wake of opening a new corporate headquarters in Richmond, VA in January, Babylon Micro-Farms received a $1M grant with the potential for $750,000 follow-on funding from the National Science Foundation to continue their development of BabylonIQ, an all-inclusive platform for powering decentralized, automated Micro-Farms. The platform is designed to be hardware agnostic, in order to manage a wide variety of on-site farming products, and the insights and data from the Machine Learning and computer vision components present a critical ability for the platform to learn and optimize automatically over time. The results will be Micro-Farms with high yields, better flavor and nutrition, and a seamless user experience. In 2019 Babylon was awarded a $225,000 Phase 1 grant to begin scientific trials of the technology. The objective was to use machine learning models to leverage NDVI and other image data to accurately and automatically capture metrics such as plant health and growth rate. The trials “allowed us to focus on more cutting edge, risky technologies that complement our remote management platform under the supervision of the National Science Foundation. The research demonstrated results promising for commercialization,” said CTO Graham Smith.
Babylon Micro-Farms is the leading distributed Micro-Farm provider in North America. Founded in 2017 by Alexander Olesen and Graham Smith, Babylon is building an ecosystem of on-site vertical farming products powered by the BabylonIQ platform - the software and IoT infrastructure designed to power a large network of small-scale vertical farms to improve the self-reliance of food service operations. To date, the company operates a network of 45 farms in the Mid-Atlantic region of the USA with a further 106 farms due to be installed by Q1 2022.
The prestigious Phase 2 SBIR Commercialization grant represents a significant milestone for the company, providing financial resources to accelerate commercialization. With the Phase 2 research and resources, Babylon plans to productionalize this technology and further develop Babylon’s CEO, Alexander Olesen, said “Our goal has always been to remove friction from the growing experience and create a system that can guarantee reliable yields. The machine vision component of our platform allows us to automatically correlate input variables with output variables, laying the foundation for a network that will continually learn from itself to improve outcomes for our customers.”
Babylon’s platform approach is designed to fuel the rise of accessible on-site vertical farming solutions, an underdeveloped segment of the CEA industry that has lacked the technology and the business model to fully realize it’s high growth market potential. The headlines have been dominated by utility scale growers such as Bowery, Aerofarms, and Plenty and emerging technologies poised to fuel the rise of the industry, like Root.ai (acquired by App Harvest). Tomorrow’s food system will require a myriad of solutions - outdoor growers, vertical farms, greenhouses, and modular solutions that are affordable and scalable like Babylon’s Micro-Farms. The technology developed as part of the SBIR research represents a major milestone for remote management technology and on-site vertical farming. Micro-Farms will ultimately benefit consumers by providing the freshest, most nutritious produce, with little packaging and food waste, while engaging the end consumer in the food they eat and capitalizing on existing infrastructure.