It’s a new year, and as is always the case in early January, organizations are introducing new products and solutions, announcing partnerships and joint ventures, and gearing up for trade shows and conferences with great enthusiasm and optimism.
One of the most interesting announcements to cross my desk this week was issued by Veea, a company offering integrated smart edge connectivity computing, and security technologies for edge and cloud. Veea, which was founded by technology veteran and non-stop entrepreneur Allen Salmasi, came out of stealth mode after working closely with Opti-Harvest, an agricultural innovation company that develops climate-smart technology and products that help farmers maximize yield, optimize land and labor resources, and increase water use efficiency.
While the companies have not yet revealed the projects completed in 2022, they have clearly been busy implementing systems in the vineyards of California and France, radically improving the quality and yield of grapes, despite the challenges posed by extreme weather events (wildfires, droughts, and floods) which continue to keep the agricultural industry on edge.
Opti-Harvest’s patented Opti-Filter agricultural technology and Opti-View precision farming platforms enable commercial growers of high-value specialty crops to better utilize sunlight, the planet’s most fundamental, renewable, and free natural resource. Opti-Filter is a patented light filtration technology that maximizes the sun’s most productive rays, filtering out those that inhibit growth.
Opti-View, an (AI) Agricultural Intelligence technology, is designed to collect and processes critical environmental, yield, irrigation, and labor data to enable the promise of precision agriculture.
Opti-Harvest’s physical form factors (which wrap around plants and move with the sun to optimize the light required for predictable growth and quality fruits, vegetables, and other crops) are equipped with sensors generating data collected and leveraged at the edge and shipped to the cloud over a range of network types – LoRaWAN, 4G LTE, WiFi, and soon private 5G wireless which will support low-latency applications and automated systems.
VeeaHubs are key infrastructure components for Opti-View functionality and deployments. The VHH09-4GL VeeaHub model offers a wide range of connectivity and expansion options for enterprise-grade, demanding applications and, in the case of Opti-Harvest, supports LoRaWAN and 4G LTE. Veea’s vMesh WiFi optimizes performance in the field, picking up signals from LoRa sensors generating important data that will be used to create powerful predictive analytics that farmers can use in real-time.
Typical deployments include various commercial off-the-shelf and proprietary sensors that send data to VeeaHubs wirelessly, which in turn sends data to the cloud over public or private 4G or 5G connections, feeding a variety of cloud systems. The data collected by VeeaHubs makes its way to the Opti-View portal with an intuitive admin experience and ultimately to AI and ML systems for advanced analytics, presentation, and reporting.
“Veea is committed to working with Opti-Harvest to develop this advanced, connected solution to monitor critical data streams for crops in the field and create new value from this digital transformation,” said Mark Tubinis, Chief Commercial Officer, Veea. “Food security is one of the most significant social challenges today, as is the dramatic climate change, which is impacting the ability for farmers to improve yields, assure quality, and operate profitably. With precision agriculture techniques, we can intelligently address everything from water consumption to soil and nutrients management beyond indoor growing facilities, where AgTech has seen its earliest successes. By augmenting Opti-Harvest’s sunlight optimization products with sensors and data collected from those sensors shipped into local and cloud applications, we can change the game and make sustainable contributions to the farming industry, to the communities those farms are part of, and quality of life for millions.”
“We are thrilled to be partnered with Veea in this important initiative,” said Jodd Readick, CTO of Precision Ag, Opti-Harvest. Working closely with Veea’s highly skilled team, we are excited to create innovative solutions with high ROI to demanding problems. Partnering with Veea enables us to provide a complete, fully managed, and cost-effective solution encompassing powerful edge computing and flexible data connectivity services to major growers around the world.”
Opti-Harvest claims their Opti-Gro system shortens time to production by 1-2 years. Vines that are grown with Opti-Gro develop lignified, fully mature laterals in their first season, enabling production in the following year; individual growth chambers create a light and microclimate environment to protect vines from wind, hail, frost, livestock, pests, and heat damage; and Opti-Gro overcomes shading from adjacent vines while reducing labor costs by naturally training vines onto the trellis system.
The company also says their Opti-Shields reflect and scatter red-enriched sunlight toward the young tree, evenly distributing the most stimulating parts of the light spectrum. Opti-Shield’s structure creates a protective microclimate to shield plants from wind which, coupled with the optimized light spectrum, lengthens the daily growing period, protects plants from environmental stress, and repels pests.
Opti-Shields accelerate trunk and canopy development, increase foliage density, and increase first harvest yield by 50-100%, Opti-Harvest also claims.
Their Opti-Panel supports “mature trellis crops,” providing 5-8x more light than common farming practices with an optimized light environment, rain protection, and self-training for table grapes and other trellised fruit crops, reducing labor costs associated with training, center canopy pruning, and leaf removal. As with the other products, Opti-Panels provide spectrally modified, scattered red-enriched light to increase fruit yield and quality in trellised tree crops and protect table grapes from rain, hail, frost, wind, heat damage, and fruit decay.
According to a 2022 market research report by MarketsandMarkets, the precision farming market is expected to grow from USD 8.5 billion in 2022 to USD 15.6 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 7.9%.
The main drivers for this expected growth are a shortage of skilled labor, increasing strain on global food supplies, and growing farm mechanization activities by farming concerns.
With regards to the impact of climate change on farming, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported last year that changes in ozone, greenhouse gases, and climate change affect agricultural producers greatly because agriculture and fisheries depend on specific climate conditions. Temperature changes can cause habitat ranges and crop planting dates to shift, and droughts and floods due to climate change hinder farming practices.
A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that if temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius, viable wine-growing regions could shrink by more than half, noting that wine is an important indicator of the impacts of climate change because wine grapes are extremely sensitive to the changes in temperature and season that come with climate change. The report also said that addressing risks in the wine sector could also help other agricultural sectors to adapt, in part because of its diversity
“In some ways, wine is like the canary in the coal mine for climate change impacts on agriculture because these grapes are so climate-sensitive,” said the study’s co-author, Benjamin Cook from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in this article published by Reuters last year.