As one of three finalists in the competition "Digital Agriculture for Sustainable Food Systems" - Organized by EIT Food, the Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft (LfL) and Siemens, Swiss startup Vivent SA won the coveted award on June 1. Back in February, the Swiss company's state-of-the-art plant monitoring sensor was extensively tested in a pilot phase at Siemens Technopark Ruhstorf and on LfL test plots.
On June 1, Vivent SA's biosensors were presented to some 200 growers, students and agricultural advisors and experts. This was followed in the evening by a presentation to a jury of seven experts. "We are particularly proud to have won against our competitors Dahlia Robotics and PAAWR, also two pioneers in the field of digitalization of agriculture. Thanks to this Challenge, we have been able to gain new know-how as well as experience, which is why participation was worthwhile for us for several reasons," Marina Martin Curran of Vivent SA reports.
"All plants emit electrical signals, which is why our sensor system can be used to monitor any crop. So far, our process is mainly used on tomatoes and cucumbers, but we have also gained initial experience with strawberries, lettuce, asparagus, cannabis and many other crops," Dr. Curran describes. Current projects include the United States, the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Hungary, Portugal, France and Switzerland. We are currently expanding our presence in Germany, she adds.
Biosensors enable pinpoint data collection
From the grower's point of view, real-time data on the crop in question is particularly important, he says, so that it is possible to see with pinpoint accuracy how the plant reacts to different irrigation methods. Curran says, "Based on this data, the grower is able to adjust or redefine his cropping strategy accordingly, thus avoiding plant stress. After all, reducing plant stress is the ultimate key to increasing yield."
Vivent notifies the respective farmer via SMS or email when plants fall out of their natural growth rhythm so that the grower can react as quickly as possible. On the other hand, the grower is also notified when the plant returns to its "normal" state, Curran points out. "Our system can also detect pests and pathogens weeks before visible symptoms appear. Our data team is using artificial intelligence to develop algorithms to identify exactly what factors are contributing to plant stress. The more data we can collect, the more powerful these algorithms will become. In addition, growers can just contact us if they need a specific algorithm to detect certain stressors."
Digitization more in demand than ever
In terms of the increasing digitization of agriculture, Vivent SA clearly has the wind at its back, Curran notes with satisfaction. "We can look forward to changes in agribusiness that we could not have imagined just a few years ago. From crop monitoring via satellites and drones to the use of electrophysiology directly on the plant. Such insights and early warning systems not only contribute to the efficient use of any inputs, but they also lead to more sustainable agriculture. If nothing else, technologies like ours lead to managing with fewer people in times of labor shortages and minimum wage increases."
Although the startup has quickly made a name for itself at home as well as abroad, they are continuously tweaking the process where possible. "We are currently working on a wireless prototype that will make it easier to use in the field. Without wires, it will be much easier to fit entire fields with our biosensors and collect the data we need on the different microclimates that may even exist at a site," Curran concludes.
Visit the company at Greentech: Hall 01, 111
Images: Vivent SA