Military tech used for senosr to monitor crops

When a tech analysis firm says that a startup could make “significant disruption in their relevant space” and that the product the startup offers is a “showstopper”, it is well worth discussing. These were the words of Zirra.com Ltd. (which provides analysis of tech releases with machine learning and AI) about Flux. And if it is in the industry of green tech, which is trending upward, that makes all the more reason to take notice of the offering.

Flux is an Israeli startup that uses IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) technology in a much more peaceful context – that of growing vegetables and other crops. It is intended to help farmers and growers who use no-soil hydroponic technology to grow plants. The device from flux, called Eddy, is especially aimed at indoor growers. The device could therefore be particularly interesting for those growing plants in cities for food. The device is left in the water reservoir used to grow the plants and then sends details of the growing to a smartphone app. Users can then request advice from other growers online about best growing practices.

It uses military standard imaging tech, and is aimed at helping farmers use less chemicals to control growth and weeds and also use less water. The amount of light and nutrients given to hydroponic plants determines how they grow. The Flux is run by founders Karin Kloosterman (an ex-journalist) and Amichai Yifrach (a military engineer). Others on the management team include Blake Burris who is CEO. Kloosterman said of the technology:“In the army you build perimeter security using imaging processes and webcams that can see things the human eye can’t. With that technology Eddy can look at a plant and detect nutrient deficiency and tell you what it is. Right now you have to be a trained agronomist to know.”

Yifrach’s background creating smart sensors for Coalition troops in Afghanistan enabled him to bring he application of military technology to the startup. Flux is starting production thanks to $2m it is about to receive as seed capital, and is hoping to raise another $8m in 2017 contingent on sales. Most sales run through financing site Indiegogo. The company have offices in Israel where the engineering takes place, but are growing their presence in the United States with most of the staff located in Colorado. Eddy is currently manufactured in Israel but in future will be made from China if the demand is sufficient.

Water content farming is big business, and one of Eddy’s benefits is that it is so cheap at $179, its nearest competitor being the starter kit for $2,500 from SmartBee Controllers. Just a sensor alone can cost in the region of twice the price of Eddy. Flux aim to sell up to 25,000 products in 2017.

Hydroponics are the trend of the day in crop growing. Measures from the Department of Agriculture in America are aiming to improve growing practices and impact on the environment. By 2021 the market for these devices looks set to increase by 5% over the 5 years previous to nearly $857m while the number of businesses in this industry will increase by nearly 20% to 3,000 in the same period. According to official figures over 35% of the US population has crops growing at home or on their land.

Another development in the hydroponics industry has been the acquisition of Kiwi startup BlueLab by Scotts Miracle-Grow Co. (the global biggest seller of garden equipment). BlueLab enables simple monitoring of hydroponic crops by PC and soon by smartphone.

One of the big areas of demand for these sensors and hydroponics is from marijuana farmers.

“Eddy has to prove itself on a larger scale, but something like this is necessary and offers an interface for non-professional and professional growers alike to understand and ‘talk’ with plants,” according to Thieme Hennis who leads the Space Farm Collective in the Netherlands. The organisation is seeking to trial how plants might be grown in space and also how citizens on earth can grow them more effectively as part of a project called Watch Me Grow, which is run by a Border Labs team. It is in collaboration with the European Space Agency. SpaceX and NASA are also working with hydroponics. Hennis is optimistic about Eddy: “Eddy has to prove itself on a larger scale, but something like this is necessary and offers an interface for non-professional and professional growers alike to understand and ‘talk’ with plants.”

More information can be found at: Bloomberg




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