Using AI To Grow Avocados And Improve Agricultural Productivity In South Africa

Globally, South Africa maintains a spot as one of the major producers of avocado. In 2019, the nation secured approximately 1.1% international market share in the multi-billion dollar avocado export market. However, its annual production volume of between 80,000 and 120,000 tonnes is still many miles behind the annual production volume of 1.5 million tonnes by top avocado producer, Mexico. However, this figure could be significantly increased with precision agriculture, thereby, providing ample opportunity to boost the nation’s overall revenue from avocado export.

The right amount of irrigation is extremely critical for South African avocados to attain maximum growth. For a long time now, South African farmers have relied on traditional irrigation strategies that are largely hinged on their intuition and experience, which has hindered the attainment of the maximum productivity that could be reached in avocado production. Cracking the issue of irrigation could unlock an astonishing increase in South Africa’s annual avocado production volume.

Now, Israeli company, SupPlant, is using technology, particularly AI, to provide farmers with smarter and more efficient ways to improve agricultural productivity. They have been able to achieve this by developing an AI model that employs predictive algorithms to provide customized irrigation recommendations based on analyzing about 100 million data points. Their solution is now being used by South African farmers to grow avocados as the solution is particularly useful for South Africa’s avocado irrigation challenge.

To gather data, SupPlant’s solution involves the use of sensors. These sensors are located in 5 different parts of the plant (avocado, deep soil, shallow soil, leaf, stem/trunk). The sensors monitor plant stress, the exact water content in the soil, health data of the plant, the growth patterns of the plant and the fruit. Climatic data and data on the growth patterns of the plant are also monitored by the sensors. The combination of the data is uploaded to a cloud-based algorithm, at 30-minute intervals, which then makes predictions based on the input data from the sensors to provide farmers with irrigation recommendations.

However, the solution above does not solve all of the challenges that South African farmers face in avocado production. Another critical challenge for the farmers is associated with the weather. To overcome this hurdle for South African farmers, SupPlant integrates the use of top weather intelligence platform, ClimaCell, to monitor the weather in a particular plot of land. Today, with the use of SupPlant’s mobile app, South African farmers can monitor their farm plots and control irrigation on any plot from anywhere. The mobile app provides graphical information on historical and future irrigation plans, present and forecasted climatic data customized for each farm plot, growth patterns of the avocado plant, agronomic insights and recommendations for irrigation.

If, for instance, plant stress begins to increase, farmers will immediately get altered via the mobile app and receive data-driven amplified irrigation recommendations to prevent severe damages to the plant. With SupPlant’s solution in the hands of farmers, farmers will no longer need to engage intuitive and traditional irrigation and farming approaches.

In such a time as now, when the demand to produce more in smarter and more efficient ways is seemingly high, SupPlant’s solution evidently lies beyond South Africa’s avocado industry, as it also extends to other areas where precision agriculture could be harnessed to unlock massive agricultural productivity. With a technology like AI, the journey to smarter and more intelligent farming is just evolving.



















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