Creating Sustainable Agriculture through Digitalization
A passionate entrepreneur with 10 years of hands-on experience in supplies of sustainable plant nutrition and health solutions to farms in Eastern Europe, Pavel Hilman is a well-known name in the industry today. He is the CEO of Sensilize, a precision agriculture company involved in development of software and hardware solutions for crop field monitoring and data analytics, based on remote sensing and Artificial Intelligence. He speaks on an array of topics in an interview. Excerpts:
Conception of Sensilize
Sensilize is an international scientific precision agriculture IT company manufacturing and supplying farmers with integrated remote sensing hardware and software solutions for crop health analysis and management. As an easy-to-use, easily integrated device, the platform provides ultimate user experience through a simple interface. System provides options to import data from third device and platforms and export ready maps and recommendations which gives synergies with other farming equipment while selective till age helps reduce costs on fuel. “It helps in reducing environmental effects of mineral fertilizers, phosphates and crop protection chemicals use too” explains Pavel.
AI- Empowered Solutioning
SENSILIZE Decision Support System with spectral recognition algorithms of automatic crop stresses detection and identification that provides field monitoring and analysis services with actionable recommendations for harvest loss prevention. This makes transformation to sustainable and organic production financially feasible. Says Pavel that the system contains phenotyping AI algorithms for plant diagnostics, predictive analytics, and online scientific support by human crop experts. “The solution helps to optimize farming practice and resources with targeted nutrition and protection of crops based on a reflectance signature pattern recognition. With help of our algorithms we enable farmers to choose the most optimal crops to sow, considering soil parameters and crop rotation. This also helps in precise calculation of seeding density, plan nutrition and protection programs in simple and easy to use online system.”
The disruptive approach allows farmers to collect and analyze more, integrating existing hardware and software solutions and obtain case-specific advice from remote expert consultants. The novel approach of plant physiology allows customization of surrounding environment parameters precisely to each farm and receive actionable insights after considering micronutrient content at each field location. Touted as the first project to adopt a plant physiology approach with application of AI-powered with phenotyping, the platform aims to consolidate data collection from all commonly used third party IoT devices and Big Data sources. “Mapping all data types over several layers brings synergies in the holistic approach of plant health. On-demand professional recommendations and reports can be obtained online by farmers allowing them to apply most relevant crop expert knowledge from plant pathologists, physiologists and agronomists in case-specific crop problems.”
Pandemic Effect on Agriculture Industry
Pavel laments that farmers loose over half of crops before harvesting and then almost half after in logistics and storage. And those are statistics before pandemic while things are getting worse as more diverse restrictions are taking place as well as climate change, making it harder to produce with the old farming practices they used through generations. “As the world is facing a severe food crisis, organic food grown in natural condition will soon turn into absolute luxury,” he observes.
He notes that agriculture is the most saturated sector with useful collectable data among all other industries, and the second least digitalized one. “AI provides a great opportunity to process large volumes of diverse data, evaluate and predict physiological crop response based on biophysical parameters we manage to extract from spectral data, IoT, app and field labs.” Predictive analytics of historical and real time data helps to foresee and mitigate crop stress with application of location-specific biological crop nutrition and protection products. This facilitates better yield, while reducing the use of pesticides and mineral fertilizers commonly used in conventional farming, as well as improve general soil fertility contributing to sustainable long-term farming approach. “Never before farmers were able to detect and apply nutrients and protection for each field segment individually with targeted nutrition dosage application. Thus we are to see a great surge of digital solutions that help the process data in many ways and give useful insights as well as those that create a new industry infrastructure giving ability to double food production volumes on smaller.”
“I believe it is crucial to create productive environment and achieve Integrity in the team. I believe my ability to unite people and develop relationship of trust is probably the most important one.”
A Word of Advice for Start Ups
“Never give up” suggests Pavel. Being pragmatic and sometimes skeptical is important for planning, however in the innovative tech sector you must able to find and adopt efficient solutions fast.
“Internet allows us to find all the startup needs: outsource Human Resources, server infrastructure, funding opportunities and ways to find clients. Many services of those we need are available online and we get many ads in social networks offering consulting and advisory for startups.”
“Know your industry, improve by learning with competition, search solutions to problems in other industries and avoid extra hardware where possible, integrate rather then add more” he signs off.