New app to promote sustainable water management in agriculture

A new start-up from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology analyses satellite images using Artificial Intelligence to transmits precise data on water management to farmers’ smartphones.

As global droughts increase in severity, many farmers are forced to artificially irrigate fields. With precise plant and soil data, farmers can understand the extent of drought damage and implement measures to promote sustainable water management. A new start-up, named heliopas.ai, gives farmers access to this vital data via their smartphones.

Enabling precision irrigation

The technology developed by heliopas.ai is based on satellite images, precipitation volumes, and other data that are collected daily. Artificial Intelligence is then used to identify relevant parameters, such as soil moisture and the occurrence of plant diseases. “Thanks to the simple and clear recommendations, the farmer only needs to irrigate those areas that actually require irrigation,” Wolff says. “This helps him save water and reduces the expenditure for planning and coordinating seasonal workers.”

WaterFox offers an easy to navigate user interface where farmers can outline their fields in the app and start learning ways to improve their water management immediately. According to developers, future versions of the app will include irrigation recommendations and suggestions on how farmers can improve fertilisation and crop protection.

Why sustainable water management is essential

As global temperatures begin to rise, areas with low precipitation become drier than they would be in cooler conditions. Drought is a recurrent feature of the European climate, the severity of which has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. According to a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), ‘The projected increases in water abstraction and water use, particularly for agriculture, will exacerbate minimum low flows in many parts of the Mediterranean region, leading to increased probabilities of water deficits when maximum water demand overlaps with minimum or low availability.’

The severity of heatwaves in Europe increase every year, causing many farmers to lose their crops to drought. Following the Paris Climate Agreement, many EU member states are taking drastic action to reduce their strain on the environment. However, this effort needs to continue as farmers are still struggling to keep their crops alive, with vegetable crop yields dropping by 50% across Europe.

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