New Israeli innovation helps farmers to save water

As global warming makes water increasingly valuable, an Israeli company has developed a new system that optimizes water usage for agriculture.

 An irrigation system waters a field of crops in the Hula Valley, northern Israel (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
An irrigation system waters a field of crops in the Hula Valley, northern Israel
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

SupPlant is an Israeli agriculture technology (AgTech) company that is trying to improve farmers' water usage efficiency. Their main product is a Plant-Sensing system using an advanced algorithm that analyzes live data from plants, soil and meteorology sensors, and translates it into irrigation recommendations and actionable insights.

The company was founded in 2012 by Zohar Ben Ner, who is also its president. Located in Afula, SupPlant operates in Israel and abroad, including Australia, South Africa, Mexico, Argentina and more. The company has raised over $40 million so far. 

"It's not new that global warming has brought extreme implications for the entire world. However, it is even more impactful for agriculture and farmers, or in other words on the world's ability to produce food," according to CEO Ori Ben Ner.

"The reason for it is [based on] how much of decision-making in agriculture is based on the weather," he said. "Extreme weather events like heat waves are already leading to damages that inflict available food supply. This year alone, about 200 million people will suffer hunger due to extreme heat in the wheat belt in the US and India.

"The reason for it is how much of decision-making in agriculture is based on the weather. Extreme weather events like heat waves are already leading to damages that inflict available food supply."

Ori Ben Ner
 Watering plants (illustrative) (credit: RAWPIXEL) Watering plants (illustrative) (credit: RAWPIXEL)

"SupPlant solves this problem with a unique and simple method: We help farmers make decisions based on the plant's condition rather than on the weather."

Their Plant-Sensing system is a physical set that is fitted both onto the plant and on the ground. The system shows the plant's condition and recommends to the farmers when and how much to water it.

SupPlant's new product

"We do not provide watering systems," Lior Naaman, SupPlant's CMO, explains. "When the farmer already has it, we give them the technological solution which lets them know when his tree is thirsty. This system is mostly directed at large-scale framers who own large swathes of land, [who] are only around 2% of all farmers in the world.

"Because most of the farmers in the world are smaller, we have developed a new product directed at small-scale farmers called 'Plant.' It is very cheap, and has tremendous value, especially at these times of climate change and water shortage."

Naaman also said that "This is not even downloading an app. all the small-scale farmer has to do is tell the system what specific variety they grow, where is it and putting [the imformation] in their phones. After that, they will receive daily Whatsapp messages with exact instructions and recommendations."