Agtech Startup SupPlant’s flagship product is, essentially, the Babel Plant Fish: By making use of an array of sensors, the plants can tell you if they’re drinking enough water, or if they can do so with an extra sip or two.
In a world where under-irrigation leads to far more devastating results than over-irrigation, a farmer not enabled with technology may be tempted to keep the soil moister than it needs to be—wasting an enormous amount of precious water in the process. By carefully measuring plants, and pairing their condition with weather and soil data, they can provide very accurate watering needs. The company just raised $27 million to continue enrichment and water its growth path.
When the agricultural revolution occurred 12,000 years ago, farmers began to track how crops grew based on different weather patterns, broad fluctuations in weather forecasting, etc. Many of these patterns have been disrupted by climate change.
‘The ability to make Decisions based on weather seasonality are literally lost – and that’s where we come in. By sensing a plant, we can identify exactly what it needs no matter what the season,” explains Uri Ben-Nir, CEO and founder of SupPlant, a third-generation farmer. He admits that his grandfather—who is 91 and still grows onions, watermelons, and corn—hardly admits He perceives what he is doing as cultivation.
The company has two products: a software-only solution and a hardware and software product. The hardware producer measures one plant per 25 acres or so, and uses that data to extrapolate the needs of all crops in the field. The solution uses five different sensors – deep soil, shallow soil, stem, leaf and fruit. Each sensor feeds data into an algorithm, which also takes into account weather patterns, weather forecasts, soil information and other property data, to advise how to strategically water crops over the next 10 to 14 days.
“We learn the specific patterns of the stem – and later in the season – of the fruit itself by adjusting our watering recommendations. Our system learns the patterns and optimal watering regimes. It preserves the plant and the fruit is the maximum growth pattern a plant can do.” There, he begins to go into the details of specific regimens for increasing sugar levels. For wine grape growers, for example, you want to press the plant at a certain time, three weeks from now, to encourage the plant to pile up the sugar. The more sugar in the grapes, the better the wine. Essentially, the end result is significant crop improvements. Our main goal is to increase and improve production, but the by-product is to save a lot of water. “
The company closed a $27 million round led by Red Dot Capital, with the participation of philanthropic strategic investors, Menomadin Foundation, Smart Agro Fund, Mauer Investments and others. This brings SupPlants’ total funding to date to more than $46 million. The company currently has 70 or so employees and plans to grow to more than 100 this year.
In addition to the hardware-based product, the company recently launched API, a sensorless technology that has served 500,000 corn farmers in Kenya over the past season. SupPlant is making its technology available to these smallholder farmers by changing the basic concept of irrigation. The new technology is designed for the world’s 450 million small farmers. In 2022, SupPlant aims to have more than one million African and Indian smallholders on its platform.
The SupPlant app can help growers know how to respond to extreme weather events to help give plants as good a chance to thrive as possible. Image credits: subplant
“After a few years in the market, and with tens of thousands of sensors deployed, we have millions of irrigation events, covering over 33 crops, with over 200 species in any geographic area you can imagine, and in every climatic condition you can imagine. So the value Fundamental to the product today is the fact that we have the most unique irrigation database on Earth. The devices will be a catalyst for that,” explains Ben-Nir. The hardware solution is clearly more accurate than software alone, but as the company collects more and more data, it is able to extrapolate how different crops are performing. “Our main markets – ie where most of the sales teams are located – are Australia, Mexico, South Africa and Argentina. We are just on the cusp after a very successful proof-of-concept, to sign 100% of the dates in the UAE, which consists of 2.1 million trees. We can solve the UAE The United Arab Emirates saves 70% of its water consumption. The amount we can save per tree is the consumption of 10 people in the UAE – one of the driest places on Earth.”
Update: A previous version of this article reported total funds raised at $45 million. This was corrected to $46 million.