Israeli Tech To Provide Millions of Farmers in Africa, India With Sensor-Less Solution
Agtech startup SupPlant raises $10 million to deploy cutting-edge irrigation system
Israeli agricultural technology company SupPlant has developed a sensor-less irrigation system that will be implemented by millions of farmers in Africa and India over the coming years, the company’s CEO said.
SupPlant, which specializes in precision agriculture technologies, recently finished developing a patented new system that uses big data, rather than sensors, to help farmers reduce costs, increase yields and save water. Up until now, the startup’s technology was a hardware-software solution with sensors, intended for high-end farmers.
The new autonomous irrigation technology relies on agronomic algorithms, artificial intelligence and cloud-based technology to help farmers boost their yield. It measures plants’ stress and monitors their water content in order to project growth patterns.
“We’re utilizing the largest database of plant data – that we own – in the world to develop a product,” Ori Ben Ner, CEO of SupPlant, told The Media Line on Sunday, adding that the product is designed for the world’s 450 million small growers.
Smallholders, or small-scale farms, produce about a third of the world’s food, according to research carried out by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In fact, the vast majority of the world’s farmers – five of out every six – operate on less than two hectares of land.
By September 2021, SupPlant’s new API product, which stands for Application Programming Interface, will be implemented by 500,000 farmers in Kenya; the startup also has signed a strategic deal with farmers in India. The company aims to see its innovative irrigation solution being used by 2 million smallholders in Africa and across India in 2022.
SupPlant’s database contains farming data from 14 countries, covering a wide array of climates and growing conditions.
Although less accurate than the company’s earlier, higher-end solution, the new API product is significantly less expensive. While the sensor-based solution costs roughly $200 per year, the new one costs about $6 per year.
A smallholder has “no ability to afford knowledge and technology that is super expensive and very high-end,” Ben Ner said.
Founded in 2018, the Afula-based startup on Sunday also announced that it had raised $10 million to accelerate the deployment of its new irrigation system. The current funding round was co-led by Boresight Capital, Menomadin Foundation, Smart Agro Fund and Mivtach Shamir Holdings. It brings SupPlant’s total funding to date to over $19 million.
SupPlant’s agtech optimizes water usage – cutting water usage by 30%-50% on average – and helps farmers bypass extreme weather events. For example, droughts have become an increasingly big problem in many parts of the world due to climate change.
According to Ben Ner, there is no other sensor-less solution with a similar level of accuracy available on the market today.
“It has the ability to influence food reserves and the livelihoods of communities all around the world,” he stressed. “Our vision is to integrate or influence every irrigation action on Earth.”
The sensor-based product is already widely used in Mexico, South Africa, Argentina and Australia.
“In a world at risk to the destructive impacts of a changing climate, SupPlant’s solution – to seek actionable insight farmers can turn into smart irrigation decisions, by ‘talking with’ the plants that produce our foods – is a concrete example of how technology can improve our world,” Jeffrey Swartz, partner at Boresight, said in a statement that was shared with The Media Line.
“Across a variety of critical crops and a wide range of geographies, from smallhold farmers to larger-scale food producers, we invest in SupPlant because SupPlant helps farmers produce more, better food sustainably,” he said.