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The importance of monitoring water activity in a closed environment

"It's exciting that despite all the market shifts, KETOS is steadily growing and developing meaningful partnerships, not just selling the hardware and walking away," says Meena Sankaran, founder and CEO of KETOS.

KETOS recently closed a $10M financing round, announced in May 2024. Given the newfound reticence of investors in the vertical farming industry following a string of bankruptcies and poor financial performances, Meena notes that this further demonstrates KETOS's success in this challenging nascent industry and investors' recognition of the technology's value.

Meena Sankaran

"Certain regions and investors are looking at vertical farming with a global lens and hold a deep belief in it. Despite seeing a variety of our clients fall out of the industry, new investors are still coming to us and are supporting us," says Meena.

She also notes that moving ahead, KETOS is being more selective in its engagement with vertical farming to focus on those that are aligned with KETOS' vision and values, which will allow all parties to engage on a much longer-term footing. The company has signed multiple clients, many with 5-year contracts.

"The value of KETOS' technologies has never been discounted in all of this turbulence. It has mostly been vertical farming companies needing to solve some business problems. The vertical farming segment is holding, but the big long-term players are revealing themselves," Meena explains.

Different crops, different testing standards
With KETOS SHIELD, growers can monitor more than 30 parameters in their water in real-time. That said, the technology's speed of adoption varies depending on the crop. As Meena notes, acceptance in the cannabis industry has been slower as growers seem content to characterize the feed solution but not continue monitoring it afterward. In contrast, she has noticed that clients in the greenhouse and vertical farming space are looking at a multitude of environmental parameters every minute, doing full analyses two times a day and basic monitoring every hour. Nevertheless, Meena sees incredible potential for KETOS SHIELD in the cannabis industry and hopes that growers will come around to see the benefit.

"We're able to reduce operational expenditures massively through real-time monitoring and by extension, improved water and nutrient planning. KETOS SHIELD provides direct cost savings, risk mitigation, improved recycling and compliance to produce a high-quality crop with fewer batch rejections," says Meena.

Artificial intelligence now woven into KETOS tech
AI has been part of the KETOS platform since 2017, the company specialized in water intelligence and monitoring for multiple years. Two years ago, KETOS built an operation intelligence module that incorporates AI and first trialed it in open-field agriculture, more specifically with almonds and grapes. Over time, KETOS was able to take satellite imaging, field mapping, etc. and develop machine learning models to optimize yield. This artificial intelligence module has been adapted for vertical farming, among other industries.

Additional developments include software releases and screening tools for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). To drive its future innovations, KETOS is actively looking for partners in the vertical farming and open-field agriculture domains.

"Nutrient management is not going away. Water management is critical and is best done through real-time intelligence, not reactionary and periodic sampling," Meena concludes.

For more information:
Meena Sankaran, Founder and CEO