Avocados are said to be among the most sensitive fruits to grow around the world. This is mainly because their irrigation requirements are quite sensitive and requiring constant monitoring and watering of the soil.
Specifically for South African avocados to reach their full growth potential, they must be irrigated in the right amount: not too much and not too little. For decades, the decision on how to irrigate avocados was done based on the farmer’s intuition, experience, and at best on some scattered data. Traditional irrigation approaches limit growers to being reactive, not proactive in protecting their avocados. Today, technology such as the one used by SupPlant is taking over this space to help farmers use smarter ways to irrigate and produce more avocados in South Africa.
Artificial Intelligence in agriculture
With headquarters in Israel, SupPlant is among the new crop of precision agriculture hardware-software startups that have been coming up with solutions for agriculture around the world.
Typically, precision agriculture startups use any combination of agronomic algorithms, hardware sensors, drones, Artificial Intelligence, big data, and cloud-based technology. In the case of SupPlant, they have developed a data model using predictive algorithms based on analyzing 100 million avocado data points.
Another startup focused on precision agriculture in South Africa is Aerobotics.
Aerobotics is a South African startup that uses machine learning and AI to process satellite and drone imagery and deliver insights to farmers. The startup then offers farmers services such as tree counts, identification of missing trees, and the size and health of trees. Aerobotics says that it has progressed its technology to engineer fruit counts and to provide data on fruit size and color.
This is slightly different to what SupPlant does with AI and sensors.
Technology for farming
SupPlant’s sensors, which measure the stress of the plant, are placed in 5 locations of the plant (deep soil, shallow soil, stem/trunk, leaf, avocado) and monitor Plant and fruit growth patterns, The actual water content in the soil and plant health data. In addition to this data, SupPlant monitors real-time and forecasted climatic data and forecasted plant growth patterns.
All this info is then uploaded every 30 minutes to an algorithm in the cloud that provides farmers with precise irrigation recommendations based on the integration of all this data.
The added benefit for farmers using this type of technology is that some of the monitoring they typically performed manually can now be automated and this saves them time.
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