Meet HARV – Our Automated Technology for Vertical Farming

Posted on June 11, 2021

Did you know there is a shortage of farmers? Recent data from the Conference Board of Canada’s research showed 41% of farmers were unable to hire enough workers in 2021.

This is not just a Canadian issue, but to feed 9 billion people globally, there is a shortage of food and a shortage of farmers. Pontus has always focused on addressing these issues with a pure and natural complete protein that is highly nutritious and grown sustainably. As a technology company, we are developing the technology to address the shortage of farmers and the food shortage.

Recently we submitted our international patent for a Harvesting Automated Robotic Vehicle or “HARV” for short. HARV is a vertical farm rack system and automated plant tending and harvesting robot designed to work alongside and assist Pontus’ Closed Environment Vertical Aquaponics System or CEVAS system.

Pontus worked with Automation Experts out of Calgary, Alberta, when their research showed there was no robot in place that could support the crop. Water Lentils are the world’s fastest growing leafed plant, and they usually need to be harvested every 24-72 hours. With CEVAS, it can be even more frequent. 

Pontus and Automation Experts did a comprehensive search, and most robots are simply to move trays of plants down to a lower level for tending of the plants. Great for pot plants, not so great for water beds. It isn’t efficient, and it also adds in more interaction with humans, which we have already seen may be an issue to hire the right people. It also increases the opportunity for pathogens and contamination.

Biosecure for Vertical Farming

The Pontus facility is biosecure designed to minimize the chance of pests, diseases and contamination. It allows Pontus’ facility to be truly organic with no pesticides and chemicals needed in the process. Being biosecure improves the health of the plants, the fish and ultimately the humans who eat the produce. It’s also safer to get a robot climbing up 30 feet and doesn’t require scissor lifts with fall arrest for a human working at that height.  

The team led on the Pontus side by Steve McArthur, CTO, designed a sleek and high-tech robot to harvest and tend the water lentils.

Keeping a low profile on the robot allows there to be nine levels of vertical farming. The additional levels increase the yield in the facility and make for more cost-effective use of the land. Adding the technology to the robot, rather than the vertical farming beds, which is the industry standard way to do it, will reduce the cost to build the facilities, as the technology is in HARV. 

“HARV harvests the water lentils that are ready to be harvested into a strainer basket. When it detects the basket is full, HARV has an elevator that allows it to go down the levels, to empty the basket, and then back up to carry on tending the plants and continue the daily harvest,” – Stephen Bruce Wong, CEO Automation Experts. 

Efficiency is key, and using technology to drive production of sustainable organic crops is core to the Pontus mission.

“HARV does everything we want it to. It helps maintain and manage the crops and will help us optimize the growth lifecycle of the crop. If you look at the other water lentil companies, such as Parabel, they grow outdoors in huge tanks, like cranberry farming. Outdoor farming introduces pests, and pesticides, has a shorter growing season and requires more land.


“Our CEVAS system is much more sustainable and looks to the future of food. It means that the environment is much more predictable, and we can use HARV to handle the care and harvesting of the crops.” – Steve McArthur CTO, Pontus.

The team chose a global patent to allow the company to take the technology as it expands across the country and into new geographies. You can find out more by joining Steve McArthur and Steve Bruce Wong on Tuesday 15th June at 12 noon PT, follow on Facebook