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EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Cleantech Open Winner Series 2014 Global Ideas Winner: AutoAgronom

This brief interview is part of Cleantech Open Winners, a series produced by Thomson Reuters Sustainability on new innovation, either scientific or social, which could help make the world more sustainable.

Featured Innovation: Smart irrigation & fertilization system by Nissim Daniely, CEO of AutoAgronom, Ltd.

What is your Product/Innovation/Service Called?

AutoAgronom develops smart irrigation and fertilization control systems that “listen” to plants and crops, understand their needs, and provide optimal growing conditions with real-time adjustments to fulfill the needs of the plants according to their ideal growth rhythm.

How does your innovation/product/service help the world?

With global population constantly rising and the increasing scarcity of farmland and water, food security has become one of the world’s toughest challenges. Growers are challenged to increase production and become more efficient. In an attempt to increase productivity growers tend to over-fertilize their crops, which results in soil contamination. Growers must then pump even more water to wash away these excess minerals. This in turn both depletes and contaminates aquifers – reducing fresh water availability even further.

AutoAgronom solves all of these challenges. By measuring chemical and physical changes in the root zone and then automatically reacting to any change with short-pulse irrigation, AutoAgronom delivers oxygen, water, and nutrients efficiently by utilizing the capillary movement of water in the ground. This provides optimal growth conditions continuously throughout the growing cycle, around the clock in real-time. We are saving water consumption by more than 30%, reducing fertilizer use by more than 40%, and increasing crop yields by up to 30%.

Corn - China - Compared to a known competitor

Corn – China – Compared to a known competitor

Why did you do it?

Our team has been working for 30 years to provide farmers with smart control systems for Agriculture, Co-ops, and Fisheries. In 2008 we realized that farmers struggle to find these answers every day: when and how much to irrigate, when and how much to fertilize? These are the most critical factors for crop development. Yet, at best, farmers are guessing and/or estimating the answers.

Before 2008, we assisted farmers by providing decision support systems – the farmer programed the irrigation and fertilization schedule. To determine the right schedule, they relied on data from multiple sources – agronomists, weather stations, recommendations of fertilizer manufacturers, sensors, and their own experience. However, it is almost impossible to correlate all of that data with the right schedule for that field or crop. Additionally, because environmental conditions may change during the day, the needs of the plants change while the farmer does not have the time or attention to update the irrigation and fertilization schedules every few hours. This may cause stress to the plants, which further reduces yields and wastes resources.

We decided to find a solution to these questions – and we succeeded. Using seven (7) sensors (over an area of 100Ha), non-drainage drippers, and smart algorithms, AutoAgronom provides the plants with optimal growing conditions in any climate or soil, for any terrain suitable for driplines. Our solution is suitable in open fields or greenhouses for any type of plant life: vegetables, flowers, tree fruit, field crops, and more.

How did you make an informed decision to invest so much of your time and life in this?

We have been innovators throughout our careers. The irrigation and fertilization challenges had not been solved, so we decided to focus on that. We teamed up with an agronomist who had an idea he developed over many years to build a working product. The combination of our innovative team and the agronomist who invested more than 10 years developing the methodology, software, and hardware created AutoAgronom. Our Company now produces the world’s most efficient agricultural controller.

What is your next big step?

AutoAgronom is looking to expand to new markets worldwide. We do not sell directly to end-users. AutoAgronom’s business model is based on selling the service instead of selling of hardware. To implement it we use local distributors that have direct access to farmers, work in the same time zone and speak the same language and know how to give exceptional service to its customers. Our systems are sold in many countries around the globe (such as China, Spain, Peru, UK, Cyprus, Turkey, Israel, and more) and we are looking to expand to within these territories as well as in the US, Australia, South Africa, and other markets.

For more information, please see:

AutoAgronom Website

Cleantech Open

CleanTech Open – Global Ideas Competition

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