Reinventing agriculture: From drip irrigation to smartphone farming

Every 10 minutes, the company's algorithm analyzes the weather forecast and data collected by sensors on the ground, stem and fruit to decide whether to supply water to the crops.

June 6, 2019 02:14
2 minute read.
Reinventing agriculture: From drip irrigation to smartphone farming

Afula-based SupPlant's Growth Based Irrigation technology used at an avocado plantation. (photo credit: SUPPLANT)


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Agriculture, one of the world’s oldest industries and underpinning human settlement throughout history, is undergoing fundamental change.

When most people think of Israeli agricultural technology, drip irrigation comes to mind. Pioneered by Kibbutz Hatzerim’s Netafim in 1965, the company has produced over 150 billion “drippers” for farmers in 110 countries since its establishment.

Like much of Israeli innovation, technology was born out of necessity, as Israeli farmers sought to grow crops in the dry soil of the Negev desert.

While Israel has largely overcome its industrial and household water woes, primarily courtesy of investment in coastal desalination plants, ambitions to solve the world’s most pressing agricultural challenges have not subsided.

According to government estimates, Israel’s agricultural industry is worth approximately NIS 100 billion ($27.68b.) annually, and has potential to export produce and technology valued at NIS 4b. ($1.1b.)

Next week, 7,000 people and delegations from around the world – including almost 300 people from the Palestinian Authority – will arrive in Tel Aviv for the annual Agro Mashov conference, showcasing the latest developments in agricultural technology from Israel and around the world.

Among those presenting their technology will be Afula-based SupPlant, a leading global company harnessing Internet of Things (IoT) technology in the field of agriculture.

Founded four years ago, SupPlant has developed an autonomous irrigation system – known as Growth Based Irrigation (GBI) – which feeds crops according to their needs.

Every 10 minutes, the company’s algorithm analyzes the weather forecast and data collected by sensors on the ground, stem and fruit to decide whether to supply water to the crops.

The company is now planning to launch its application, utilizing SupPlant’s vast array of data and insights derived from it. The application will provide each grower with dynamic irrigation recommendations based on a range of factors including type of crop, stage of growth, soil type, plot location and the weather.

“Humanity is currently facing difficult problems – first and foremost, dramatic climate change,” said SupPlant CEO and founder Zohar Ben Ner. “There is a need for a system providing a holistic, online response – in real-time – for any changes that occur and any effect on the crops. Our technology saves farmers tens of percent on water expenditure, and increases their yields by 5% on average.”

SupPlant’s GBI system is currently in operation in 14 different countries, with each system guided by an experienced agronomist specializing in the relevant crop and in contact with the grower throughout the season.

In addition to precision agriculture and water conservation, conference sessions will feature solutions for growing bell peppers, cannabis cultivation, the avocado industry and natural pest control.

“The Agro Mashov conference puts agriculture on the map and exhibits the multiple strata of which agriculture consists,” said conference founder and CEO Haim Alush. “Each year anew we see how agriculture is being streamlined and improved, and how new and interesting technologies are introduced into the industry.”

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