Sri Lanka, an Agriculturally driven state, relies on rice production for both its food security and its economy. Agriculture accounts for 7.42% of the GDP (2019) and 23.73% of the labour force (2020). However, with global warming, an ever-increasing threat, and a declining workforce, the Agriculture sector struggles to keep up with the demand of an ever-increasing population. Even under optimal conditions, traditional farming struggles with inefficiencies such as incurring heavy water usage.
An introduction to SenzAgro
Founded in 2014, SenzAgro aims to utilize the Internet of Things (IoT) to revolutionize the agriculture industry. Its founders had grown up in the North and gained deep insights into the challenges and needs of farmers. With these insights, the company offers a crop-specific intelligence platform, which comes with a set of modules to assist farmers.
The DigiPlant sensor node offers real-time monitoring of temperature, humidity, soil moisture, and other climatic conditions. The DigiPulse irrigation controllers allow farmers to remotely control and automate their irrigation cycle. A weather station module brings real-time monitoring of rain and wind patterns. Finally, the farm manager application can be utilized to manage the day to day operations such as scouting, stock management, cash-flow management, etc.
Further, SenzAgro also specializes in urban farming solutions. By growing crops in horizontal or vertically stacked layers in an IoT controlled-environment, plant growth is optimized and results in a high yield of crops from a small urban environment. An alumnus of the John Keells X accelerator, SenzAgro is now also a part of the Land Accelerator, which supports startups restoring degraded forests and farmland. Today, SenzAgro’s platform is utilized by fams of all sizes across the world.
Using technology to optimise toddy
Historically, the production of toddy has always been a famed Sri Lankan tradition. The exports of toddy also contribute a significant portion to the nation’s GDP. The quality and quantity of toddy depend heavily on the climate, irrigation, and fertilization. But this presents a big challenge for farmers as coconut farms are typically located in remote areas. This makes it difficult for them to find employees that would irrigate and maintain the trees. Even if they find employees, it’s an equally challenging task to monitor their performance.
Additionally, toddy must be collected at an exact time. If delayed then the quality will be affected, leading to a great loss for the farmers. Hence, monitoring the operations of toddy tappers is vital. Unfortunately, the lack of skilled labour and non-uniform irrigation hinders the full potential of toddy production in Sri Lanka. For Rockland, a Sri Lankan distillery, in addition to the existing issues, it had adopted the practice of organic farming, where constant monitoring was needed to ensure the nutritional requirements of trees were met.
Given the vital need for monitoring amongst toddy producers, SenzAgro utilized technology to address this issue. With its Crop-Specific Intelligence platform, toddy producers can continuously monitor the climatic conditions and soil texture of the coconut trees. It also offers the necessary inputs for fertilization and irrigation in real-time. Importantly, the SenzAgro platform continuously monitors and controls the irrigation and fertilization cycles of the coconut farm without human interruption.
By helping solve the critical challenge of regular monitoring, SenzAgro was able to ensure optimum productivity and quality of toddy production. Waste through human error was reduced by 10-15% and the platform allowed producers to trace back the root cause of quality issues. Moving forward SenzoAgro aims to analyse the predict the productivity of each tree on the coconut farm.
The future of farming
Today you’ll find farms producing a variety of crops utilizing the SenzAgro platform. Beyond the example of toddy producers, farmers that produce bananas, cucumbers, strawberries, and many more have enjoyed its benefits. It goes without saying that the future of farming will heavily utilize technology to generate the food we need.
By 2050, feeding a planet of 9 billion people will require an estimated 50% increase in agricultural production. With a large percentage of 2nd generation farmers moving out of agriculture due to resource scarcity and climate change, it’s a must to produce more with less. By leveraging the power of technology, SenzAgro aims to solve this and feed the world.