“Let not a drop of water to go to the sea without being made use for mankind.”
Since the dawn of recorded history, agriculture has been central to Sri Lanka’s economic prosperity. As schoolchildren we learned that we were the “Granary of the East” (Peradiga Danyagaraya) during the reign of Parakramabahu I.
Over a quarter of the country’s population continues to engage in agricultural activities today. The contribution from these activities accounts for about 7% of our Gross Domestic Product.
But when juxtaposing our Agri sector’s per-capita growth and productivity against that of advanced agricultural nations like China, the USA or Brazil, we find ourselves falling short. We have not been able to develop our Agri sector at the same rate as these countries. One of the main reasons for this lethargy is that many of our farmers continue to employ highly traditional cultivation methods.
The yield obtained from cultivation depends heavily upon micro-environmental factors such as irrigation, soil fertility, temperature, humidity, ambient lighting etc., and the control exerted on these factors by traditional farmers is rather low. In contrast, farmers in highly developed nations that use modern technology exercise very close control over the micro-environments of their crops and enjoy much greater yields per hectare.
Having understood this lacuna in our Agri sector, Azend Technologies has taken the initiative to work with the DIMO PLC’s Agribusiness Research Facilities in Lindula and Nuwara Eliya, to engineer “Smart Environments” to produce mushrooms, vegetables, vegetable seeds, fruits, and flowers. A “Smart Environment” is an integrated technology solution that leverages the Internet of Things (IoT) and Advanced Analytics to facilitate autonomous control and remote monitoring of cultivation environments. The solution would help maximize crop yield and quality by shielding them from various seasonal and environmental risks, which would otherwise undermine the efforts of traditional farmers.
In the pilot project that was recently completed, Azend was able to successfully facilitate the remote monitoring and autonomous management of the micro-climate of a large cluster of Mushroom Polytunnels. These Polytunnels are expected to have a significantly increased mushroom yield because of the optimal micro-environmental conditions that are being maintained by the automation.
The pilot solution gathers data from temperature and humidity sensors in the field, compares these readings against crop growth rules, and autonomously manages actuators to control temperature and humidity at optimal levels. It also enables remote monitoring by field officers via a Web dashboard, so they could manually intervene and control conditions within a polytunnel with a higher level of precision.
Rajeev Pandithage, Chief Operating Officer of DIMO, was excited about the progress of the solution at Lindula and Nuwara Eliya. “At Azend our work revolves around harnessing the industry knowledge that DIMO has in the verticals we do business in, so as to innovate and deliver smart solutions. Smart environment for our agriculture businesses is vital. I am delighted to see Azend’s pilot solution supporting our mushroom polytunnels at our Agri Tech Park in Lindulla. This will help us boost yield and optimize the use of key resources such as water, electricity, and nutrients. The timely nature of this initiative ensures that we can focus on sustainability, without compromising quality or productivity, in an otherwise resource-intensive industry and ever-changing environment."
Azend together with DIMO hopes to scale this automation solution to the other crop varieties and to manage a wider range of micro-environmental factors in the coming months. This would enable Sri Lankan vegetable farmers to earn more and develop their competitiveness in the global market.
“We are moving towards a productized solution and have a roadmap of software and hardware features in the works,” says Rajive Silva, CEO of Azend Technologies. “We hope to differentiate ourselves from competition by integrating successful crop nurturing patterns that are defined by Agri-experts and which are constantly enhanced by empirical data gathered through our solution directly from the field. We urge small and medium Agri-entrepreneurs to keep tuned to our social media handles for further developments.”
“Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.”