Lazar Jovanovic, CEO of Smart Watering, gives us the ins and outs of his automated irrigation system, explains how it differs from others out there, and highlights the impact Smart Watering will have on the environment.
Smart Watering launched in 2018 as a gadget that enables the remote control of irrigation using SMS.
The idea was born when I planted a small hazelnut farm in my hometown. At the time I was working in Novi Sad, Serbia, as a scholarship student in one of the largest IT companies here, and I needed a tool that would help me irrigate my farm remotely. So, my college buddy and I sat down and created the first prototype of a Smart Watering controller.
Well, we’ve come a long way when it comes to product development. At first, our system only enabled the remote control and scheduling of irrigation. Today, the Smart Watering app is an agronomist, an operator, and an analyst that is available 24/7/365.
What we do differently is we combine monitoring, scheduling, control, and analytics with an AI-driven agronomic algorithm that provides daily irrigation recommendations to the farmers. Farmers, therefore, have hassle-free irrigation using one app, since they can monitor and control from anywhere and get daily insights about irrigation in the palm of their hands.
Case studies showed that our solution saves more than 400,000 liters of water per hectare and reduces workforce activities by four times. That’s enough water to supply two average EU households with fresh water for a year!
It also reduces diesel and electricity costs and usage by 20% if the irrigation is optimized per our algorithms. This directly reduces CO2 emissions.
The system consists of devices and sensors installed in the field, and a cloud application that enables the monitoring and control of the irrigation mostly in orchards and vegetable farms. The one thing we are proud of is that the vast majority of our customers never ask for a user manual once they download the app (although we do provide one).
The app itself is intuitive, easy to use and navigate. I think this has been the case from day one. We have great relationships with the farmers that use our technology, and I like to say that our job is easy because all we do is listen to the farmers and their challenges, and then solve them by implementing solutions.
So far, our solution has proved to be beneficial for both fruit and vegetable growers. Last season we started exploring crops such as corn, soy, beans, etc, and the results were far better than expected.
We’ve talked with farmers from Europe, China, and the USA. All of them are lacking the right information about irrigation and are currently exploring solutions that are going to automate farm operations – labor shortage is a global challenge.
If we want farmers to implement the technology on a larger scale, we – the technology providers – need to prove it works, be clear about the possibilities and, of course, the ROI. That’s why we’re doing case studies in various crops and geographies. In this way, we’re making sure that what we do works, and this helps us minimize the implementation risk for the farmers.
Any technology, if misused, can do more harm than good. If we don’t do periodic visits of the field problems (check for false readings and bad sensor placement) the technology can provide false information which leads to under or over irrigation.
We believe that no matter how good the technology is, it's never going to replace the eyes of the farmer. Farmers know their land and crops best. The technology is there as a tool, and as an assistant that’s going to automate certain processes and provide information to the farmer about what could be done better, more efficiently.
However, this is a two-way street, and the more farmers use the technology the more feedback we get, and it becomes easier to make the technology work for the farmers and not vice versa.
The life expectancy of these kinds of products is 10+ years. When you plant a tree, your plan is to get yields in the next 10 to 20 years and you need robust and reliable technology that is going to support you in that way. We’ve developed highly reliable electronics and are using soil moisture sensors that have a lifespan of more than 10 years.
Sure, there are plenty of solutions for pest monitoring and control out there that are helping farmers reduce input cost and lower use of chemicals in their fields.
Definitely. A study has shown that 74% of farmers choose their irrigation based on experience, 24% use weather data and only 1% of the farmers use soil moisture probes when deciding when to irrigate and how much.
This means that most of the time water is spent inefficiently. There’s an enormous opportunity to optimize irrigation, save water, gas, electricity, time, and money. One of our latest case studies showed that the application of our solution on corn has an ROI of less than four seasons.
We’re about to start the fundraising process for global expansion and are developing new features that use machine learning in order to make irrigation more efficient and cost effective.
We’re also finding new ways and adding features that are going to help fruit growers manage their crops in a way that supports their profitability. The future is bright!