Parker: Calgary firm uses tech to help you tend to plants and pets

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Many of us have been frustrated trying to grow indoor plants and, because of our negligence or ignorance of their needs, have had to discard them into the green bin burial ground for rotting rubber plants and dying dieffenbachias.

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Welcome to your home Tom Lam, who, through his company Felix Smart, can help grow and care for your plants and pets using its superior technology.

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Lam has been at the forefront of developing technologies to help users monitor and care for the things they love.

His company brought to market equipment that helps aquarists to measure and then control a range of systems — including water level, temperature, lighting, filtration, pH scale and other elements — necessary to control aquariums and ensure healthy fish.

Now, he and his team of engineers have broadened their reach into managing and caring for plants and animals.

Knowledge, experience, time and monitoring are required to achieve a successful outcome.

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House plants make pleasing decor and are good for the home environment, but Lam is also giving people the opportunity to grow food in their homes.

He says a typical system of three racks measuring two feet by six feet can grow 120 heads of lettuce every four weeks. In his own home, he grows lettuce, bok choy and strawberries. It is way too much food for his family of seven, so neighbors and friends are reaping the benefits of homegrown fruits and greens. It provides great savings compared to the cost of vegetables that are shipped from abroad, and with the knowledge that he is fully aware of the quality of the water and soil they are grown in.

Felix Smart recently brought on Apple’s former director of AI research Russ Salakhutdinov — a Canadian researcher who is currently a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh — to join the team as an adviser.

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Salakhutdinov has been helping the team develop the latest version of its AI predictive health system for plants and animals named KAI — Key Artificial Intelligence. The new system will integrate environmental data with imaging from a Felix Smart camera to provide the most comprehensive analysis possible. By using the two data sources, Lam says he can accurately predict potential health issues before they become problematic.

Four years in the making, Lam says the consumer product evolved from a “crazy amount of data” — in the past 12 months the company has collected 3.2 million data points based on 500 users.

Felix Smart offers a number of apps that will help set up a vertical garden, and a plug-and-play kit that will monitor plants and offer corrective measures to ensure their best health and taste.

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Pets can also be monitored with a motion sensor activated camera to automatically add water and food to dishes, as well as watching for signs of ill health.

The development of the new systems, and the relocation of all of the company’s operations to Calgary, will require the need for a larger facility of around 10,000 square feet and the hiring of around 15 new staff of mainly engineers over the next six months.

With the problems the world is facing with severe weather and supply chain snare — the WHO is predicting a food crisis — hydroponics is a way of growing foods faster, more efficiently, better tasting and locally. Felix Smart is staying ahead of the game.

Notes:

Developers have taken full advantage of the benefits to companies in locating into massive industrial buildings in the Balzac area. Able to buy land at lower costs than in the city, with lower property taxes, zero business tax and immediate access to major transportation routes, it has been a ‘no-brainer’ for companies such as Lowes, Amazon, Walmart, Sobeys, Home Depot and Sysco. Their presence has made Rocky View County the fastest growing region of the Calgary area and the second fastest growing in the country. Now, Beedie Group is offering the opportunity — through Ryan Haney and his industrial team at JLL — to purchase dock-high distribution condos from 10,000 square feet in its planned “A” Class FIVE66 business center along Wagon Wheel Boulevard.

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected].

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