ONDO Smart Farming Solutions, Ilia Iordanov: Automation is the only way to success in agriculture
Ilia Iordanov, Co-Founder and CEO of ONDO Smart Farming Solutions, for South-East European Industrial Market Magazine
ONDO Smart Farming Solutions won the “Innovative Start-Up” award in The Innovative Enterprise of the Year 2020 national contest for its intelligent solution for automated management of agricultural processes, developed by a team of agricultural, software and hardware specialists. What is the right approach to professionals in such different fields collaborating successfully?
Consolidating expertise in the fields of agriculture and digital technologies is a key factor in the successful development of any state-of-the-art farming automation solution. Our ONDO system represents a symbiosis between hardware and a software application, offering digital automation of all important agricultural processes such as irrigation, fertigation, climate control, monitoring, etc. ONDO is suitable for implementation in greenhouses, vineyards, orchards, maize and vegetable fields.
Thanks to feedback from our customers, we have a clear idea of the specific benefits regarding the implementation of ONDO in agricultural units. Customers have shared results of achieving up to 85% lower irrigation water costs due to precise management and control of water resources, up to 50% lower energy costs due to optimized consumption of power, diesel, gas, etc., up to 40% higher crop yields, a significant reduction in the costs for fertilizers and agricultural chemicals, and up to 60% less losses, caused by different types of human error.
Tell our readers more about the technology and the automation tools the solution is based on. What are the challenges in integrating the software and hardware components and the agricultural equipment itself?
ONDO is an IoT-based technological solution – using sensor data and preset programs we remotely control (by wire or wireless means) drip irrigation, ventilation, fertigation and all other processes in a greenhouse or an agricultural field, making them more efficient and more profitable, while saving farmers time and effort to invest in developing their business.
What is unique about us is the business model, which provides our customers with the basic equipment at an affordable price and an annual subscription plan, based on the chosen level of automation. This significantly reduces the initial investment for installation and allows farmers to rapidly implement the ONDO system with the option to upgrade it later if necessary. Furthermore, thanks to the easy way of controlling the system through a smartphone or a computer, it becomes an invaluable high-tech assistant in the everyday life of farmers.
How do you rate the current role of farming automation for Bulgaria‘s agriculture sector and what direction do you think it will take in the future?
Automation is the only way for farmers to be successful. One of the most significant problems in Bulgaria, however, is the lack of reliable publicly available national data on the number and types of agricultural holdings and the degree of their digitalization. This complicates reaching all farmers for us and makes marketing research and professional planning a very challenging process. It has been established that Bulgaria takes up one of the last positions in the EU in terms of digitalization of the economy and this, unfortunately, is largely true for agriculture. Therefore, it is crucial to enforce as soon as possible Submeasures 4.1 – “Investments in agricultural holdings” and 4.2 – “Investments in processing/marketing of agricultural products” of the Rural Development Programme.
Most of the funding comes from the NextGenerationEU instrument, which is aimed at the digital economic recovery of the sector as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. It will enable farmers to finance automation of irrigation, fertigation and climate control in their agricultural units. In this sense, these measures are a huge step towards overcoming the deficit of digital technologies in Bulgarian agricultural production.
Otherwise, what we can conclude from our constant communication with farmers in the country is that there is a changeover of generations in the sector, which has a strong beneficial effect on its development – the children of experienced farmers take over the business from their parents with new modern vision and an open mind to automation and digital technologies.
In the long term, what is your vision for the development of smart agricultural solutions with a view to automation in your upcoming projects?
We are constantly working on improving the system and all our customers regularly receive its latest versions, as well as detailed information about the implemented updates. Our goal is for the system to become increasingly autonomous, to cover more and more agricultural processes and to require less commitment from the farmers towards the managed unit. For example, we are currently working on the capability of creating and applying ready-made recipes for growing specific plants at each stage of their development, based on the data collected in the specific agricultural unit, while adapting these recipes through continuous monitoring and real-time video surveillance.
We have also made significant progress in creating the ONDO Educational Hub, which will offer the comprehensive know-how of our team in the field of agronomy, automation and digital cultivation of crops, as this is a dynamic field and farmers constantly need guidance and advice about the various options that are available to them.
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