AFRICA – Tel Aviv-based startup making smart crop irrigation sensors, SupPlant has raised US$27 million from several financial partners to help farmers fight climate change in Africa.
The latest funding round was led by Red Dot Capital Partners with participation from Menomadin Foundation, Smart-Agro Fund, Mivtah Shamir, Deshpande Foundation, PBFS, and Maor Investments.
The smart irrigation systems provider will use the funding to continue developing its sensor-less API product and expand operations in its new markets in Africa and India.
API product, a sensor-less version of its system pulls statistical data about growing conditions in any given region of the world, to provide irrigation recommendations based on the data.
The startup also plans to digitally inform farmers around the world to be more resilient to volatile weather events.
Other than the newly introduced API product, SupPlant has two products: a software-only solution and a hardware-and-software product, which enables farmers to improve yields, productivity, and water use efficiency on a large scale.
The technology combines data collected from soil, plant, and weather sensors to understand and identify the main parameters affecting the optimal performance of plants.
SupPlant’s database is the largest plant database in the world, accumulated by data collected from 32 crops in 14 countries, covering growing conditions from dry arid regions of the Middle East to tropical conditions in central America.
Combining and analysing all the data, in real-time, using intelligent algorithms, SupPlant provides a precise irrigation plan and recommendations on a daily and weekly basis to maximize yields and budget.
When the agricultural revolution happened 12,000 years ago, farmers started tracking how crops grew based on various weather patterns and broad-stroke variability in weather forecasting, etc. A lot of these patterns are being disrupted by climate change.
“The ability to make decisions based on seasonality of the weather is literally getting lost — that’s where we come in.
“By sensing the plant we can identify exactly what it needs regardless of the season,” explains Ori Ben Ner, CEO, and founder at SupPlant.
On the African continent, the start-up has a presence in Kenya, where it provided data-driven irrigation recommendations to 500,000 female maize farmers during the recent agricultural season using its sensor-less API technology.
The challenge is to identify the most impacted areas to rationalize water use in plantations, at a time when drought is hitting some African countries.
SupPlant wants to equip one million small farmers in Africa and India with its API technology.
The Israeli company is also present in Morocco, where it recently expanded its activities. In the Kingdom of Morocco, SupPlant offers a system with sensors, different from the API technology.
The sensors are placed on the soil, the path, the leaves, the foot, and the fruit of the plant. Also based on artificial intelligence, the system collects plant size data every half hour and sends it to small farmers via a digital dashboard.
Changes in plant size can signal those plants are under extreme stress from, for example, a heatwave or insufficient water supply.