More Israeli Help for Farmers

An Israeli company is planning to help millions of small farmers around the world to get the best from their crops as weather conditions vary.

SupPlant is a new agricultural technology business that has been working for a while on attaching sensors to crops to monitor their needs for water and heat, etc.

A novel irrigation experiment in their use was recently completed by Dr Yishai Netzer, an expert on applied physiology and development of skilled irrigation methods for wine grapes. The conclusion was that, in 90 percent of cases, SupPlant’s sensors can reveal the vine’s stem water potential just as well as the pressure chambers that are currently in use.

But it’s their next generation system that is causing the most excitement: an approach that doesn’t require sensors but uses SupPlant’s database of 31 crops in 14 countries to provide predictions at a cost of just $1 a month per farmer.

This system has been developed for farmers around the world who grow crops on less than two hectares of land. There are thought to be around 450 million of these “smallholder” farmers, many of whom are women, most of them in the developing world – Africa, Asia and South America. They are largely ignored by current systems for technology-assisted farming.

Early in October it was announced that around 500,000 smallholder maize farmers in Kenya were given access to SupPlant’s new technology which will help them avoid crop failures.

The system collects and analyses highly localised climatic, plant and irrigation data to provide low-cost irrigation advice, weather forecast and crop stress alerts. It also provides AI-enabled agronomic guidance aimed at making smallholders’ crop yields more resilient in the face of climate change.

In the context of the current revelations about climate change, this help could prove to be of major benefit in many countries.

SupPlant partnered with PlantVillage, a part of Penn State University, which is working with partners in Kenya to reach as many as nine million farmers each week.