In recent years, various parties connected with development of the agriculture sector have begun to realize the fact that only cooperation between the three major players in this field – farmers, agricultural research, and ag-tech companies – can advance agricultural research to discover new crops and create new technologies propelling farmers toward precision agriculture, that will enable them to cope with global changes .
Leading experts and researchers participated this month in the "Agriculture Toward 2030" conference, which drew 500 participants from all branches of agriculture.
The conference reflected cooperation between parties involved in agricultural research in the Galilee: The Migal Research Institute, the Northern R&D of the Galilee Development Company, Regional Councils and the knowledge community growingIL of the Israel Innovation Institute.
The main topics aired during the conference were: How will global agriculture look in 2030, which new technologies will serve farmers, advantages of using artificial intelligence, and which agricultural crops will be able to connect into the Galilee's food tech industry.
In the conference framework there was an exhibit of agricultural start-ups, which displayed innovative technologies for precision agriculture: Roots, TarriTech, Tal-Ya, Tevatronic, Agricam, anagal, Saturas, Supplant, Hargol FoodTech, GESHEM, AGIT, Agridrones, ALTA, AgriWare, Bio-Bee, Agrowing, upflow, Viridix.
We met with representatives of some of the companies, and are pleased to present their technology :
Tarritech - Technology for preserving quality and appearance of picked fruit
At the entrance, we met with Emma Kvitnitsky, who was the only woman in the hall. We heard from her about the technology she developed to treat picked fruit – it's a sticker attached to flat of the fruit in the packing house, and within an hour the sticker releases chemicals that prevent the appearance of pathogens. One hour later, they remove the sticker and the fruit maintains its quality. The treatment doesn't harm the flavor or texture of the fruit, but affects only the development of pathogens, extending its shelf life by 3 days, and that has high monetary significance for the customer!
The company is currently investing efforts to raise funds to conduct experiments in other countries worldwide – Turkey, U.S., Europe, and is also seeking cooperative ventures.
upflow - Treatment of medium-sized dairy farm sewage
This company presents a solution for dairy farm sewage treatment, primarily for medium sized dairy farms (50-250 cows). In light of the severity in regulation, so that dairy farmers are forced to pay fines for channeling dairy barn sewage into the sewage system, the solution offered by the company is likely to minimize the level of fines.
"The installation is modular and portable, and can be expanded as necessary. This solution is multi-leveled – the first stage is separation of solids by filtering, the second stage is settling of solids by gravity, the third stage is biological treatment that enables streaming the liquid into the sewers, and minimizing fines, from a level of 20 shekels per m3 to 2 shekels/m3, which is likely to save the dairy farmer large sums annually. According to company owners, "We are active in this area for about a year and a half, and since regulation worldwide progresses slowly, we also hope to provide a solution for dairy farms around the world once the regulation reaches them."
AGIT- Maintaining cows' quality of life
Since the cow's situation has great long term influence on her fertility and milk production, the AGIT Company has developed an application for early detection of bovine distress. This is a designated application which provides a 1-10 scale for the cow's situation, and thus the farmer will be able to adjust her conditions.
The stand-alone system is installed on the barn roof, continuously monitoring the barn area and also providing a forecast of the cows' condition. The company has been active in precision agriculture for about 4 years, and to date the system has been installed in several dairy barns in Israel and also abroad.
VIRIDIX- Testing availability of water to the roots
This company presents a system based on sensors that check availability of water to the roots, independent of soil type and water quality. The data is transmitted to a cloud, where a Web system gathers data from additional sources (such as weather), analyzes the data, and gives the farmer recommendations for irrigation according to the growing conditions he has defined initially for the system. At the next stage, the system can operate the irrigation autonomously.
The system has a registered patent, and its main advantages are over other sensors on the market, since its sensors can remain in the ground for years at any depth and in any conditions, without requiring maintenance or recalibration.
Practically, the system optimizes the irrigation and fertilization regimen, thereby providing the grower with great savings in water and fertilizer expenses, primarily improving the quantity and quality of yield, and increasing grower's profitability.
ROOTS- Exploiting temperature deep in ground
The ROOTS Company presents a technology of transferring energy from deep in the earth to the roots, at minimal cost. Noam: "We exploit the static temperature at a depth of 10 meters in the earth, and transfer the heat/cold to the roots, with the help of plastic coils attached to the system, which circulates water at a low energy cost. This system leads to an increase in the amount and quality of yields, early crop ripening, and a higher premium for the farmer.
This technology can be applied in greenhouses, orchards, and open fields of between 15-20 dunams (4-5 acres). The system performs monitoring and control of the entire field, including portions without shading. Once the temperature rises to the desired level, it stops. The system knows how to warm/cool according to the season, to prevent stress conditions, which is the primary problem of crop damage!
AGROWING -Taking remote sensor technology one step further
This company has developed multi-spectral sensors that enable remote as well as close sensing. Their sensors are capable of receiving a picture from a height of 100 meters, at a resolution of 1.5-1.7 cm. per pixel, with distortion of less than 1%, and dynamic depth of the sensor more than twice that of existing sensors in the market. "It provides data far more precise, but it's still just data."
Upon identifying problematic areas in the field, the innovation of these sensors is that they can be used to photograph multi-spectrally even at a distance of 0.66 meters, and then it's possible to perform an analysis of actual data by using several photographs.
If there are 400/500 pixels per m2 it proceeds to the level of machine learning by means of which it is possible to identify any pests. For each crop there are 4-5 identifiable diseases, so if 5/6 photos are taken, it's possible to identify the problem. The photos provide very reliable information.
The company works primarily with photographic service companies, or with large companies that have installed their service. The company has already registered two patents: one for the sensor itself, and the second is high elevation multispectral photography, which is the biggest patent of the company. "There is no 'killer' application", says Ira Dvir, the company's founder, all the systems complement each other. The world is becoming professionalized, dairy farmers are much more advanced, and their costs decline. The future is hidden in cooperative ventures between companies and between the innovative technologies of all the companies.