root Systems: Adaptive Irrigation Solutions

“If you drive through any farm in America, you will see stagnant puddles of water. Often, at the same time, there are dead trees one door down. That doesn’t make sense and it needs to be fixed.” root founders Sai and Sandeep are trying to change the way that farmers look at water using a […]


“If you drive through any farm in America, you will see stagnant puddles of water. Often, at the same time, there are dead trees one door down. That doesn’t make sense and it needs to be fixed.”

root founders Sai and Sandeep are trying to change the way that farmers look at water using a scientific approach. Their platform analyzes data collected from soil sensors placed in a field alongside climate data available online to provide optimized irrigation schedules for farmers.

It was a summer internship spent at an automation company in an extremely hot and dry Indian climate that inspired Sai to develop the original concept for root. As he was automating solar-powered irrigation pumps in the field, he came to the conclusion that pumps would be more efficient if they were “sensor-driven rather than timer-based.” The ideological seed for their startup was then planted when the two young entrepreneurs connected at a hackathon in February of 2014. They pitched a ‘smart’ coffee machine, arguing that an internet-connected version of the appliance would increase workplace productivity. The idea behind their pitch was simple: if a coffee machine refreshes itself automatically, employees will not waste any time replenishing its supply.  Recognizing the synergy between this concept and his original idea, Sai invited Sandeep to work on another Internet of Things project, which became root. Though founded initially as a consumer product, root has developed into a solution tailored to farmers.

According to Sai, eighty percent of the world’s freshwater resources go to agriculture. In California’s current drought, there are large plots of fertile soil that go entirely untouched due to limited water resources. root’s founders feel that this should not be a problem, that we would have more than enough water if we managed the supply properly. Where current farmers use imprecise guesswork to determine when and how to water their crops, root employs a scientific process to eliminate waste and optimize yield.

root embeds sensors in the soil of individual crops to provide a comprehensive view of how to irrigate each part of a farm at any given time. Sensors above the ground monitor metrics such as humidity, soil moisture, soil temperature, and air temperature to extrapolate the rate at which crops absorb and lose water. Any change in the status of a plot of crops is communicated immediately via push notification to the farmers tending it, enabling them to adapt on the fly using the root app on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Sandeep reasons, “a farmer might get a push notification that says ‘water for three hours in five minutes,’ he understands that as the environment changes the needs of his plants will change as well.”

root’s founders were introduced to Plug and Play managing Partner Alireza Masrour through Startup Next, a pre-accelerator program.  They were offered a spot immediately after their presentation in spite of a live demo that had some technical difficulties. He recognized that water scarcity is an ongoing issue that calls for the type of innovative solution that root’s team is working towards.

They are currently working on a prototype model, and they will be piloting with select farms at the end of August. Their web platform is currently live and allows any California farmers to view climate data from online sources for their individual crops. You can access their app at roots.farm.

Learn more about root by visiting them on the web: roots.farm

 


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