Cosmo Pepe, CMO of Soonapse, describes how this Italian-based company will shape the future of decision support technology via its own Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform.
Soonapse is an IT company, focusing on AI and Internet of Things (IoT).
We’ve developed our own AI platform, dedicated to predictive resource optimization over time. In practice, by predicting future trends, we’re able to suggest the best strategy for using limited resources (economic, natural, human, technological, etc.), so that they’re used only when needed and in the right amount. Above all, we’re able to anticipate when particular resources will be needed, in order to allow for forward planning and appropriate resource allocation. This also generates substantial savings. Therefore, we lower costs, decrease risks and increase overall security.
Our AI platform can be used for many different things, but since we can’t be experts in every single area, we’ve chosen AgTech to develop our own irrigation service (Ploovium®). We also work with companies in other sectors to provide smart solutions to help them achieve their goals.
We had the idea in 2015, and at the end of that year, we founded Soonapse. Initially we applied our platform to different sectors, such as human resources and elearning, on order from our customers.
Then we received funding from the Sardinia Region that allowed us to develop our own unique, targeted solution, and so Ploovium® came into being in 2019.
The main difficulty was securing funding, as is the case for almost all startups.
In Italy there’s much less investment from business angels or venture capitalists than there is in the rest of Europe and the USA. There’s not really a culture of making high-risk investments in startups.
Our solution was to find corporate investors who believed in us and allowed us to develop, as well as funding some of our projects.
Ploovium® is mainly used by farms, or public and private entities that need to irrigate large areas, for example: villas, public parks, campsites, sports fields and golf courses, etc.
In 2017, we were chosen by the European Commission to represent European Innovation in Smart Agriculture at the VI EU-Africa Business Forum in Abidjan (Ivory Coast). This was in relation to the Ploovium® project. We were selected from amongst over 2,000 startups from all over Europe.
In addition, the funding obtained by the Sardinia Region came from European FESR funds.
We currently have several projects in the pipeline in relation to climate change, partnering with some of our major customers, our scientific partners, CREA (the Italian National Institute of Agricultural Research), and the University of Florence.
Ploovium® in fact responds in a very important way to the Sustainable Development Goals of the EU 2030 Agenda. You can take a closer look at the particular objectives it seeks to address.
Soonapse, by applying its AI platform to Ploovium®, has developed unique and original methods to provide irrigation advice which maximizes effectiveness and safety.
These methods have been recognized at the scientific and international levels. We have obtained an Italian patent and have filed for simultaneous international patent protection under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Patent applications have already been filed for the EU, the USA, India and Israel.
Ploovium® draws on environmental and soil sensors, geolocalized weather forecasts, its agronomic database and, above all, the AI module that’s customized for each single monitored field and crop. In doing so, it can offer both irrigation predictions and advice:
1. The prediction of the irrigation behavior of each soil/crop system is provided in 5-days increments. In 2021, the accuracy of these predictions averaged 99.50% for the first day, and 97.60% in the following 4 days. And this despite the much lower level of reliability of the weather forecast, which normally ranges from 80% on the first day to drop to about 30% on the fifth day.
2. The irrigation advice is then based on the highly reliable data of the predictions to define the best irrigation strategy. The aim is to keep the crop safe while using water more efficiently. We’ve seen that water usage can be successfully decreased by as much as 50% simply by using this technology.
The impact is significant, starting with the water balance itself, an operation that requires analysis and consulting, both of which are rarely done. With Ploovium®, via a PC, tablet or smartphone, you can see the water balance of your crop in real time, with data updated every hour.
In addition, you can follow its progress over the next five days, seeing when the crop will approach the threshold of water stress and what interventions are suggested by Ploovium®.
This all means that irrigation can be carried out safely and cost effectively.
We can be contacted in many ways. The easiest is to use the form on the Ploovium® website. We’ll work with you to ensure we fully understand your needs and then we’ll propose one or more specifically targeted solutions.
We have many projects in the pipeline, often led by our own customers, many of whom we now consider partners. These are large agricultural companies, research institutions and green chemistry companies. All our customers from last year have renewed their subscriptions, and they’re often the ones who involve us in increasingly interesting projects.
Our key aims for the future are: a higher level of internationalization, framework agreements with farmers’ associations, and an important development of our marketing systems. We’re also working on a new patent for the predictive optimization of fertilizers, which is a completely new field to date. New investors are always useful to us too!