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1. WO2020198753 - PHENOTYPIC HORTICULTURE SYSTEMS AND METHODS

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[ EN ]

CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A horticulture system, comprising:

an air handling first rack system comprising:

at least one frame supply plenum extending upwardly from a bottom side of the first rack system;

at least one frame return plenum extending upwardly from the bottom side of the first rack system;

at least one input diffusion assembly physically supported by and fluidically coupled to the at least one frame supply plenum, the at least one input diffusion assembly being configured to direct a supply airflow flowing through the at least one frame supply plenum downwardly from an underside thereof; and

at least one plant support tray assembly physically supported by and fluidically coupled to the at least one frame return plenum, the at least one plant support tray assembly being positioned below the at least one input diffusion assembly to form at least one environmental cultivation chamber therebetween,

wherein the first rack system is configured to direct the supply airflow through the at least one environmental cultivation chamber from the at least one input diffusion assembly to the at least one plant support tray assembly past at least one plant positioned on a support side of the at least one plant support tray assembly and into the at least one frame return plenum as a return airflow.

2. The system according to claim 1, wherein the at least one input diffusion assembly comprises at least one diffusion plate with a plurality of input apertures in fluid

communication with the at least one frame supply plenum configured to direct the supply airflow flowing downwardly therefrom toward the at least one plant support tray assembly.

3. The system according to claim 2, wherein the at least one diffusion plate comprises a first diffusion plate with a plurality of first input apertures and a second diffusion plate with a plurality of second input apertures at least partially overlapping the first input apertures, the first and second diffusion plates being movable coupled together such that the degree of overlap between the first and second input apertures is adjustable to adjust the velocity of the supply airflow flowing therethrough.

4. The system according to claim 3, wherein a height of the at least one input diffusion assembly relative to that of the at least one plant support tray assembly is fixed such that a height of the at least one environmental cultivation chamber is fixed.

5. The system according to claim 3, wherein a height of the at least one input diffusion assembly relative to that of the at least one plant support tray assembly is adjustable such that a height of the at least one environmental cultivation chamber is adjustable.

6. The system according to claim 2, wherein the at least one input diffusion assembly is configured such that the velocity of the supply airflow flowing through the plurality of input apertures is within the range of about 25 ft/min to about 2,500 ft/min.

7. The system according to claim 6, wherein the system is configured such that the supply airflow flowing through the at least one environmental cultivation chamber comprises a turbulent flow at a leaf canopy of the at least one plant with an average velocity of about 25 ft/min to about 1,000 ft/min.

8. The system according to claim 2, wherein the at least one input diffusion assembly further comprises an input passageway for a flow of the supply airflow therethrough from the at least one frame supply plenum.

9. The system according to claim 8, wherein the at least one input diffusion assembly defines an internal cavity that is in fluid communication with the plurality of input apertures and in fluid communication with the input passageway via a plurality of through holes in the input passageway.

10. The system according to claim 9, wherein the input passageway extends along a length of the first and second ends and the first and second faces of the first rack system, and wherein the plurality of through holes include at least one through hole positioned along the lengths of the input passageway extending along each of the first and second ends and the first and second faces of the first rack system.

11. The system according to claim 9, wherein the plurality of through holes each include a filter that prevents particles larger than a predefined size from flowing to the at least one diffusion plate.

12. The system according to claim 1, wherein the first rack system further comprises at least one lighting device positioned within the at least one environmental cultivation chamber.

13. The system according to claim 12, wherein the at least one lighting device comprises at least one top lighting device positioned proximate to the underside of the at least one input diffusion assembly and distal to the support side of the at least one plant support tray assembly such that the at least one top lighting device is positioned above the at least one plant when it is positioned on the support side of the at least one plant support tray assembly.

14. The system according to claim 13, wherein the at least one lighting device comprises at least one bottom lighting device positioned proximate to the support side of the at least one plant support tray assembly and distal to the underside of the at least one input diffusion assembly such that the at least one bottom lighting device is positioned below a leaf canopy of the at least one plant when it is positioned on the support side of the at least one plant support tray assembly.

15. The system according to claim 12, wherein the at least one lighting device comprises at least one bottom lighting device positioned proximate to the support side of the at least one plant support tray assembly and distal to the underside of the at least one input diffusion assembly such that the at least one bottom lighting device is positioned below a leaf canopy of the at least one plant when it is positioned on the support side of the at least one plant support tray assembly.

16. The system according to claim 1, wherein the at least one plant support tray assembly comprises a plant support platform that defines the support side, and wherein the plant support platform comprises a plurality of first return apertures extending therethrough for a flow of the return airflow therethrough.

17. The system according to claim 16, wherein the plant support platform comprises of removable slats.

18. The system according to claim 16, wherein the plant support platform further comprises at least one screen extending across at least one return aperture of the plurality of first return apertures, the at least one screen comprising a plurality of second return apertures extending therethrough for a flow of the return airflow therethrough that are smaller than the plurality of first return apertures.

19. The system according to claim 16, wherein the at least one plant support tray assembly further comprises a return passageway for a flow of the return airflow therethrough to the at least one frame return plenum.

20. The system according to claim 19, wherein the at least one plant support tray assembly further comprises an internal cavity that is in fluid communication with the plurality of return apertures of the plant support platform and is in fluid communication with the input passageway via a plurality of through holes in the return passageway.

21. The system according to claim 20, wherein the return passageway extends along a length of the first and second ends and the first and second faces of the first rack system, and wherein the plurality of through holes include at least one through hole positioned along the lengths of the return passageway extending along each of the first and second ends and the first and second faces of the first rack system.

22. The system according to claim 20, wherein the plurality of through holes each include a filter that prevents particles larger than a predefined size from flowing to the at least one diffusion plate.

23. The system according to claim 22, wherein the each filter comprises a high-efficiency particulate air (HEP A) filter.

24. The system according to claim 20, wherein the at least one plant support tray assembly further comprises at least one deflector plate positioned between the plant support platform and the internal cavity, the at least one deflector plate including upper deflector

surfaces that extend downwardly and into an interior portion of the internal cavity as they extend away from at least one of the first and second ends and the first and second faces of the first rack system to an opening that is in communication with the internal cavity to direct the return airflow into the interior portion of the internal cavity.

25. The system according to claim 24, wherein the wherein the at least one plant support tray assembly further comprises a drain pan in a bottom portion of the internal cavity and below the opening of the at least one deflector plate.

26. The system according to claim 1, wherein a height of the at least one input diffusion assembly relative to that of the at least one plant support tray assembly is fixed such that a height of the at least one environmental cultivation chamber is fixed.

27. The system according to claim 1, wherein a height of the at least one input diffusion assembly relative to that of the at least one plant support tray assembly is adjustable such that a height of the at least one environmental cultivation chamber is adjustable.

28. The system according to claim 27, wherein the at least one frame supply plenum comprises at least one length adjustable plenum portion positioned at least partially below the at least one input diffusion assembly and above the at least one plant support tray assembly configured to adjust a height of the at least one input diffusion assembly with respect to the at least one plant support tray and thereby a height of the at least one environmental cultivation chamber.

29. The system according to claim 28, wherein each of the at least one length adjustable plenum portion comprises a first adjustable plenum member and a second adjustable plenum member being telescopingly arranged.

30. The system according to claim 28, wherein the first rack system further comprises at least one length adjustable actuator associated with each of the at least one length adjustable plenum portion configured to vary the length thereof to selectively adjust the height of the at least one input diffusion assembly with respect to the at least one plant support tray assembly and thereby the height of the at least one environmental cultivation chamber.

31. The system according to claim 30, wherein the first rack system further comprises at least one sensor associated with each length adjustable linear actuator configured to sense the operation of the associated length adjustable linear actuator.

32. The system according to claim 1, wherein:

the at least one input diffusion assembly comprises:

a first input diffusion assembly; and

a second input diffusion assembly positioned below the first input diffusion assembly; and

the at least one plant support tray assembly comprises:

a first plant support tray assembly positioned above the second input diffusion assembly, and positioned below the first input diffusion assembly to form a first environmental cultivation chamber therebetween, wherein the first rack system is configured to direct the supply airflow through the first environmental cultivation chamber from the first input diffusion assembly to the first plant support tray assembly past at least one plant positioned on a support side of the first plant support tray assembly and into the at least one frame return plenum as a portion of the return airflow; and

a second plant support tray assembly positioned below the second input diffusion assembly to form a second environmental cultivation chamber therebetween, wherein the first rack system is configured to direct the supply airflow through the second environmental cultivation chamber from the second input diffusion assembly to the second plant support tray assembly past at least one plant positioned on a support side of the second plant support tray assembly and into the at least one frame return plenum as a portion of the return airflow.

33. The system according to claim 32, further comprising a plurality of panels that collectively extend about a periphery of at least a portion of the first environmental cultivation chamber to substantially enclose the first environmental cultivation chamber, and collectively extend about a periphery of at least a portion of the second environmental cultivation chamber to substantially enclose the second environmental cultivation chamber.

34. The system according to claim 32, wherein the first input diffusion assembly is physically supported by a first frame supply plenum of the at least one frame supply plenum and not fluidically coupled thereto, and is fluidically coupled to a second frame supply plenum of the at least one frame supply plenum and not physically supported thereby, the second frame supply plenum being a separate and distinct plenum than the first frame supply plenum, and wherein the second input diffusion assembly is physically supported by the second frame supply plenum and not fluidically coupled thereto, and is fluidically coupled to the first frame supply plenum and not physically supported thereby.

35. The system according to claim 32, wherein the first plant support tray assembly is physically supported by a first frame return plenum of the at least one frame return plenum and not fluidically coupled thereto, and is fluidically coupled to a second frame return plenum of the at least one frame return plenum and not physically supported thereby, the second frame return plenum being a separate and distinct plenum than the first frame return plenum, and wherein the second plant support tray assembly is physically supported by the second frame return plenum and not fluidically coupled thereto, and is fluidically coupled to the first frame return plenum and not physically supported thereby.

36. The system according to claim 32, wherein a height of the first input diffusion assembly relative to that of the second input diffusion assembly is fixed, a height of the first plant support tray assembly relative to that of the second plant support tray assembly is fixed, a height of the first input diffusion assembly relative to that of the first plant support tray is adjustable such that a height of the first environmental cultivation chamber is adjustable, and a height of the second input diffusion assembly relative to that of the second plant support tray is adjustable such that a height of the second environmental cultivation chamber is adjustable.

37. The system according to claim 36, wherein the at least one frame supply plenum comprises a first length adjustable portion positioned at least partially below the first input diffusion assembly and above the first plant support tray configured to adjust a height of the first input diffusion assembly with respect to the first plant support tray, and a second length adjustable portion positioned at least partially below the second input diffusion assembly and above the second plant support tray configured to adjust a height of the second input diffusion assembly with respect to the second plant support tray.

38. The system according to claim 37, wherein the first length adjustable portion comprises a first adjustable plenum member and a second adjustable plenum member being telescopingly arranged, and wherein the second length adjustable portion comprises a third adjustable plenum member and a fourth adjustable plenum member being telescopingly arranged.

39. The system according to claim 37, wherein the first rack system further comprises at least one length adjustable linear actuator associated with the first length adjustable portion configured to selectively adjust the length thereof to selectively adjust the height between the first input diffusion assembly and the first plant support tray, and selectively adjust the height between the second input diffusion assembly and the second plant support tray.

40. The system according to claim 39, wherein the first rack system further comprises at least one sensor associated with each length adjustable linear actuator configured to sense the operation of the associated linear actuator.

41. The system according to claim 37, wherein the at least one frame supply plenum comprises a first supply plenum portion that comprises the first length adjustable portion and is configured to direct the flow of supply airflow to the first input diffusion assembly, and a second supply plenum portion that comprises the second length adjustable portion and is configured to direct the flow of supply airflow to the second input diffusion assembly, the first and second supply plenum portions defining separate and distinct flow pathways of the supply airflow.

42. The system according to claim 41, wherein the first rack system further comprises at least one pressure equalizing plenum portion of a fixed height physically and fluidically coupled to, and extending between, an upper portion of the first length adjustable portion and an upper portion of the second length adjustable portion of the at least one frame supply plenum.

43. The system according to claim 41, wherein the first supply plenum portion further comprises a first fixed height plenum leg portion that extends upwardly from the bottom side of the first rack system to the first length adjustable portion, and the second supply plenum portion further comprises a second fixed length plenum leg portion that extends upwardly

from the bottom side of the first rack system to the second length adjustable portion, the first and second fixed height plenum leg portions defining separate and distinct flow pathways of the supply airflow therethrough.

44. The system according to claim 43, wherein the first fixed height plenum leg portion includes at least one damper therein configured to control the volumetric flow rate of the supply airflow flowing therethrough, and the second fixed height plenum leg portion includes at least one damper therein configured to control the volumetric flow rate of the supply airflow flowing therethrough.

45. The system according to claim 32, wherein a height of the first input diffusion assembly relative to that of the second input diffusion assembly is fixed, a height of the first plant support tray assembly relative to that of the second plant support tray assembly is fixed, a height of the first input diffusion assembly relative to that of the first plant support tray is fixed such that a height of the first environmental cultivation chamber is fixed, and a height of the second input diffusion assembly relative to that of the second plant support tray is fixed such that a height of the second environmental cultivation chamber is fixed.

46. The system according to claim 1, wherein the at least one input diffusion assembly is physically supported by and fluidically coupled to at least one common frame supply plenum of the at least one frame supply plenum.

47. The system according to claim 1, wherein the at least one input diffusion assembly is physically supported by a first frame supply plenum of the at least one frame supply plenum and not fluidically coupled thereto, and is fluidically coupled to a second frame supply plenum of the at least one frame supply plenum and not physically supported thereby, the second frame supply plenum being a separate and distinct plenum than the first frame supply plenum.

48. The system according to claim 1, wherein the at least one frame supply plenum comprises a first frame supply plenum positioned proximate to a first end of the first rack system and a first face of the first rack system, and a second frame supply plenum positioned proximate to a second end of the first rack system and the first face of the first rack system.

49. The system according to claim 1, wherein the at least one plant support tray assembly is physically supported by and fluidically coupled to at least one common frame return plenum of the at least one frame return plenum.

50. The system according to claim 1, wherein the at least one plant support tray assembly is physically supported by a first frame return plenum of the at least one frame return plenum and not fluidically coupled thereto, and is fluidically coupled to a second frame return plenum of the at least one frame return plenum and not physically supported thereby, the second frame return plenum being a separate and distinct plenum than the first frame return plenum.

51. The system according to claim 1, wherein the at least one frame return plenum comprises a first frame return plenum positioned proximate to a first end of the first rack system and a second face of the first rack system, and a second support return plenum positioned proximate to a second end of the first rack system and the second face of the first rack system.

52. The system according to claim 1, wherein the at least one frame supply plenum comprises a first frame supply plenum positioned proximate to a first end of the first rack system and a first face of the first rack system, and a second frame supply plenum positioned proximate to a second end of the first rack system and the first face of the first rack system, wherein the at least one frame return plenum comprises a first frame return plenum positioned proximate to the first end of the first rack system and a second face of the first rack system, and a second frame return plenum positioned proximate to the second end of the first rack system and the second face of the first rack system, and wherein each of the at least one input diffusion assembly and the at least one plant support tray assembly extend from at least a portion of the first frame supply plenum to at least a portion of the second frame supply plenum, from at least a portion of the second frame supply plenum to at least a portion of the second frame return plenum, from at least a portion of the second return frame supply plenum to at least a portion of the first frame return plenum, and from at least a portion of the first frame return plenum to at least a portion of the first frame supply plenum.

53. The system according to claim 1, wherein the at least one frame supply plenum is formed of at least one rigid duct.

54. The system according to claim 53, wherein the at least one frame supply plenum is formed of a plurality of rigid ducts physically and fluidically coupled together.

55. The system according to claim 1, wherein the at least one frame return plenum is formed of at least one rigid duct.

56. The system according to claim 55, wherein the at least one frame supply plenum is formed of a plurality of rigid ducts physically and fluidically coupled together.

57. The system according to claim 1, further comprising an air conditioning system fluidically coupled to the at least one frame supply plenum via at least one supply base plenum and fluidically coupled to the at least one frame return plenum via at least one return base plenum, the air conditioning system configured to force the supply airflow through the at least one supply base plenum and to the at least one frame supply plenum under positive pressure, and draw the return airflow through the at least one return base plenum from the at least one frame return plenum under negative pressure.

58. The system according to claim 57, wherein the least one supply base plenum and the at least one return base plenum extend beneath the first rack system and the air conditioning system.

59. The system according to claim 58, wherein the least one supply base plenum and the at least one return base plenum extend between a ground surface and the first rack system and the air conditioning system.

60. The system according to claim 58, wherein the least one supply base plenum is physically and fluidically coupled to a bottom end of the least one frame supply plenum at the bottom side of the first rack system, and wherein the least one return base plenum is physically and fluidically coupled to a bottom end of the least one frame return plenum at the bottom side of the first rack system.

61. The system according to claim 60, wherein the least one supply base plenum and the at least one return base plenum physically support the first rack system and the air conditioning system.

62. The system according to claim 57, wherein the air conditioning system comprises an air conditioning passageway with a fan fluidically coupled to at least one frame supply plenum via the at least one supply base plenum and fluidically coupled to the at least one frame return plenum via at least one return base plenum, the fan configured to generate the supply airflow and force the supply airflow through a portion of the air conditioning passageway, the at least one supply base plenum and the at least one frame supply plenum under positive pressure, and draw the return airflow through the at least one frame return plenum, the at least one return base plenum and a portion of the air conditioning passageway under negative pressure.

63. The system according to claim 62, wherein at least one of the at least one frame return plenum, the at least one return base plenum and the conditioning passageway upstream of the fan includes at least one air inlet aperture comprising a filter that is in direct fluid

communication with the environment extending about the system.

64. The system according to claim 62, wherein the positive and negative pressures applied by the fan are effective in forcing at least 75% of the volume of the supply airflow flowing into the at least one environmental cultivation chamber to flow into the at least one plant support tray assembly.

65. The system according to claim 64, wherein the first rack system, the at least one return base plenum, the air conditioning system and the at least one supply base plenum form a substantially closed airflow loop comprising the supply airflow and the return airflow such that at least 75% of the volumetric airflow of the supply airflow in the air conditioning passageway of the air conditioning unit returns to the air conditioning passageway as the return airflow.

66. The system according to claim 65, wherein the air conditioning system is configured to maintain the at least one environmental cultivation chamber under positive pressure.

67. The system according to claim 62, wherein the fan comprises a variable speed fan, and wherein the system is configured to vary the rotational speed of the fan to maintain a selected constant volumetric flow rate of the supply airflow flowing through the at least environmental cultivation chamber and into the at least one frame return plenum.

68. The system according to claim 67, wherein the air conditioning system is configured such that the selected constant volumetric flow rate is within the range of about 300 ft3/min to about 1,000 ft3/min.

69. The system according to claim 68, wherein the system is configured to vary the rotational speed of the fan such that the volumetric flow rate of the supply airflow flowing through the air conditioning passageway is within the range of about 300 ft3/min and about 5,000 ft3/min.

70. The system according to claim 62, wherein the air conditioning system comprises at least one cooling coil within the air conditioning passageway such that the airflow flowing therethrough flows over the at least one cooling coil, and wherein the air conditioning system is configured to control the temperature of the at least one cooling coil such that the supply airflow flowing through the at least one environmental cultivation chamber is maintained at a selected absolute humidity level at a location in the at least one environmental cultivation chamber.

71. The system according to claim 70, wherein the air conditioning system comprises at least one heating coil within the air conditioning passageway downstream of the at least one cooling coil such that the airflow flowing therethrough flows over the at least one heating coil, and wherein the air conditioning system is configured to control the temperature of the at least one heating coil such that the supply airflow flowing through the at least one environmental cultivation chamber is maintained at a selected temperature at a location in the at least one environmental cultivation chamber.

72. The system according to claim 71, wherein the air conditioning system further comprises a humidifier that is configured to control the absolute humidity of the supply airflow flowing through the at least one environmental cultivation chamber at a location in the at least one environmental cultivation chamber.

73. The system according to claim 62, wherein the air conditioning system further comprises at least one of:

a carbon dioxide source, the air conditioning system being configured to selectively introduce carbon dioxide from the carbon dioxide source into the at least one environmental cultivation chamber; and

an oxygen source, the air conditioning system being configured to selectively introduce oxygen from the oxygen source into the at least one environmental cultivation chamber.

74. The system according to claim 1, further comprising an air handling second rack system fluidically coupled to the air conditioning system via the at least one supply base plenum and the at least one return base plenum.

75. The system according to claim 74, wherein the second rack system comprises:

at least one second frame supply plenum extending upwardly from a bottom side of the second rack system;

at least one second frame return plenum extending upwardly from the bottom side of the second rack system;

at least one second input diffusion assembly physically supported by and fluidically coupled to the at least one second frame supply plenum, the at least one second diffusion assembly being configured to direct a supply airflow flowing through the at least one second frame supply plenum downwardly from an underside thereof; and

at least one second plant support tray assembly physically supported by and fluidically coupled to the at least one second frame return plenum, the at least one second plant support tray assembly being positioned below the at least one input diffusion assembly to form at least one second environmental cultivation chamber therebetween,

wherein the second rack system is configured to direct the supply airflow through the at least one second environmental cultivation chamber from the at least one second input diffusion assembly to the at least one second plant support tray assembly past at least one plant positioned on a support side of the at least one second plant support tray assembly and into the at least one second frame return plenum as a second portion of the return airflow.

76. The system according to claim 75, wherein the second rack system further comprises a plurality of panels that collectively extend about a periphery of at least a portion of the at least one second environmental cultivation chamber to substantially enclose the at least one second environmental cultivation chamber.

77. The system according to claim 75, wherein the air conditioning system is fluidically coupled to the at least one second frame supply plenum via the at least one supply base plenum and fluidically coupled to the at least one second frame return plenum via the at least one return base plenum, the air conditioning system configured to force the supply airflow through the at least one supply base plenum and to the at least one second frame supply plenum under positive pressure, and draw the return airflow through the at least one return base plenum from the at least one second frame return plenum under negative pressure.

78. The system according to claim 1, wherein the first rack system further comprises a plurality of panels that collectively extend about a periphery of at least a portion of the at least one second environmental cultivation chamber to substantially enclose the at least one environmental cultivation chamber.

79. The system according to claim 78, wherein the plurality of panels are configured to prevent the supply airflow flowing into the at least one environmental cultivation chamber from the at least one input diffusion assembly from flowing therethrough.

80. The system according to claim 78, wherein the plurality of panels extend about a periphery of the at least one input diffusion assembly, the at least one plant support tray assembly and the at least one environmental cultivation chamber to substantially enclose the at least one environmental cultivation chamber.

81. The system according to claim 78, wherein the plurality of panels comprise a plurality of sealing panels coupled to the first rack system.

82. The system according to claim 81, wherein the plurality of sealing panels each comprise an inner surface that faces the at least one environmental cultivation chamber and is configured to reflect at least about 75% of light emitted from the at least one lighting device.

83. The system according to claim 81, wherein the plurality of panels are light-proof.

84. The system according to claim 81, wherein the plurality of sealing panels are configured to prevent the supply airflow flowing into the at least one environmental cultivation chamber from the at least one input diffusion assembly from flowing

therethrough.

85. A method of cultivating a plant, comprising:

positioning at least one on the support side of the at least one plant support tray assembly of the first rack system of the horticulture system of claim 1.

86. The method according to claim 85, further comprising forming the supply airflow and the return airflow via an air conditioning system.

87. The method according to claim 86, wherein forming the supply airflow and the return airflow via the air conditioning system comprises applying a positive pressure to the at least one second frame supply plenum and a negative pressure to the at least one second frame return plenum via the air conditioning system, and maintaining the at least one environmental cultivation chamber under positive pressure via the air conditioning system.

88. The method according to claim 85, further comprising maintaining an absolute humidity level of the supply airflow flowing through the at least one environmental cultivation chamber at a selected absolute humidity level at a location in the at least one environmental cultivation chamber via the air conditioning system.

89. The method according to claim 88, further comprising maintaining a temperature of the supply airflow flowing through the at least one environmental cultivation chamber at a selected temperature at a location in the at least one environmental cultivation chamber via the air conditioning system.