By John Gray, August 7, 2013
Since 1793 the Old Farmer’s Almanac is probably best known for it’s sunrise tables and planting charts. For many farmers, the Almanac has been providing useful information, and also removing some uncertainty, for a business where success can be forged or shattered by the whims of Mother Nature.
While some farmers today still swear by the results of working with information that’s rooted in predictions about astronomical events, such as the rising of the sun, time, tides and weather, Vancouver-based Semios knows the weather is unpredictable and is focusing on helping farmers increase their crop value by redefining the science and business of crop management.
Semios is innovating agricultural technology by combining precision agriculture, biological pest control and data management. Michael Gilbert, founder and CEO of Semios, is taking his 20-years of biotech experience and decided to make pests lives miserable. For every miserable pest, there’s a happy farmer with a happier crop.
It’s commonly known that farming currently has serious economic challenges, coupled with an aging community, have put the industry in jeopardy of maintaining a healthy and dependable food supply chain. Semios is becoming an industry leader in developing machine-to-machine (M2M) agricultural technology. Considering food claims the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, new technologies like what Semios is bringing to the table is a potential game changer.
Their technology is enabling growers of high-value crops to monitor for insect pests, plant diseases and micro-climates. Data is transferred through a wireless mesh network, via the Semios dashboard, and often right into the hands of the farmer via a smartphone or tablet. Once the information is relayed, the farmer can quickly determine where and when to take appropriate action to protect and increase their crop value. The Semios system integrates on-orchard weather stations, camera-enabled traps that deliver daily pest activity, along with remote-controlled aerosol pheromone dispensers for mating disruption. This system offers farmers a near real-time decision making platform – which could essentially save them a season of revenue.
Semios launched in 2010 and are now approximately 28 people strong. They’ve implemented full systems in the Okanagan Valley, Trentino, Italy and recently a 10,000 acre operation in one of Washington’s largest farms (which employs 1,500). Semios is expanding and Gilbert stated to BetaKit that he’s currently scheduled to go on a “roadshow with WaveFront to Mexico, Peru and Chile for business development opportunities and to set up new channel distribution partnerships to manage, sales, service, and training.”
The Semios system is designed to optimize farm resources by using localized weather and pest data to water at the opportune time. It’s ability to monitor and control pests reduces dependency on chemical pesticides, thus eliminating unnecessary spraying practices. For example, codling moth can wreak havoc on BC fruit trees in the Okanagan Valley and the Semios system is proving to be highly effective (98%) in disrupting it’s mating habits.
Farming is already a high risk business, often with high capital costs. With this in mind, Semios’ hardware is free, and the company generates revenue through a range of monthly plans that are customized according to each farmers needs. Taking away additional capital cost is a nice gesture, but it’s understanding the value of increasing crop value that is catching the attention from most farmers. Semios estimates they increase crop value by an average of $500 per acre by improving crop output and reducing grade loss from pests and disease.
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