For South African avocados to reach their full growth potential they must be irrigated in the right quantities. For decades, the decision on how to irrigate avocados was done based on the farmer’s intuition, experience and, at best, on some scattered data. Traditional irrigation approaches limit growers to being reactive, not proactive, in protecting their avocados.
Now, technology is taking over this space to help farmers use smarter ways to irrigate and produce more avocados.
SupPlant, an Israeli precision agriculture hardware-software solution provider with expertise in sensing plant stress, has developed a system that uses agronomic algorithms, sensors, artificial intelligence, big data and cloud-based technology to achieve these goals. They have developed a data model using predictive algorithms, based on analysing 100-million avocado data points.
SupPlant’s sensors, which measure the stress of the plant, are placed in five locations of the plant (deep soil, shallow soil, stem/trunk, leaf, avocado) and monitor plant and fruit growth patterns, water content in the soil and plant health data. SupPlant’ also monitors real-time and forecast climatic data and forecast plant growth patterns
All this info is uploaded every 30 minutes to an algorithm in the cloud, which provides farmers with precise irrigation recommendations, based on the integration of all this data.
Since one of the greatest challenges for a South African farmer today is the weather, SupPlant uses ClimaCell, the world-leading weather intelligence platform, to monitor the weather in a precise plot location.
The following pictures and charts demonstrate what happens with avocados during a heatwave: The first picture shows that SupPlant’s climatic data forecast a heatwave approaching. Picture 2 showcases the difference between an avocado plot that used SupPlant before the heatwave and one that didn’t use SupPlant’s technology. The plot that didn’t use SupPlant suffered from loss of avocados in the heatwave, as can be seen in picture 3.
SupPlant’s mobile app allows all partnering farmers to monitor plots and control their water budget from anywhere. With the app, each farmer is able to see the information of each plot, graphic displays of the past and future irrigation plans, hyper-local current and forecasted climatic data specific to each plot, agronomic insights, growth patterns of trunk and fruit, and irrigation recommendations for the current day and a week ahead.
Picture 4 shows that the app is alerting the farmer regarding increasing plant stress, recommending enhanced irrigation. Farmers that do not use technology will only be able to see the results on the avocado themselves after the stressor created vast damage to the plant. Once upon a time, in order to irrigate, farmers needed to go to the field or set a water timer. Now, they can know from afar when their avocados are thirsty.