AgriVeritas

AgriVeritas: Advancing Agriculture into the Information Age

CyprusGreece
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Our solution is moving advanced scientific methods from the lab-bench directly to the crops in order to unlock the full potential of Agriculture in a sustainable way.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the plants could tell us what do they really need?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The food production must increase by 60% to be able to feed the global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. This is quite difficult because of the climate change that is destroying large areas of arable land. In addition, we must mitigate the climate impact of agriculture, which is enormous and counts for 20% of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore new green farming practices are needed that will be more productive.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Until now farmers are treating the crops uniformly, which means that some areas are over-treated and some are under-treated. This affects productivity both in quality and quantity. Our aim is to create data-driven farming practices by providing management maps with information regarding the health and condition of their crops. To achieve this we are using Spectroscopy Imaging and Big Data Analytics to screen and analyse the way that sunlight reflects from plants during photosynthesis, which is quite unique and it results in the characteristic green colour of leaves. Any normal changes to this reflected radiation can be associated with specific functions (e.g. ripening) and any abnormal changes with diseases and other problems (e.g. stress).
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our management maps can provide crucial information to enable selective farming and harvesting for increasing the profitability especially for vineyards. Vines with high vigour, deep green and rich canopy will produce a great amount of wine-grapes but with low vinification potential. If the farmers reduce the canopy growth and irrigation then the vine is stressed and puts more effort into ripening the fruits. However, stressing the vine too much will kill it and therefore the perfect vineyard is the one that the vines are stressed until an optimal point, which is quite difficult to determine. In addition, the decision to harvest is difficult because some vines have a longer ripening period than others even in the same vineyard.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The major impact of our innovation is the digital breakdown of the fields into bits and bytes by using cutting-edge remote sensing systems based on Hyperspectral Imaging. It uniquely combines imaging with spectroscopy to offer a wealth of information about the chemical and spatial structure of the sample. Wineries in our addressable market are making an average annual profit of €20,000/ha. With our services they will enable selective farming and harvesting to increase the production of high quality wine thus their profit by more than €4,000/ha. Actual case studies in Australia with the use of airplanes carrying hyperspectral cameras have shown a profit of more than 3,500€ per hectare by enabling only selective harvesting in vineyards. Also selective farming provides a better management of inputs (e.g. agrochemical, water) thus it reduced significantly the environmental impact of crops.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Apart of improving the productivity our solution acts as an early warning system for diseases such as Xylella Fastidiosa which is a non treatable plant bacterium that kills fruit trees. The only solution to treat Xylella is to inhibit its spread by eliminating the infected areas more or less like cancer. Therefore a solution that can detect Xylella at its very early stages will be beneficial on a global scale. Furthermore our close interaction with small wineries will provide us the essential to improve our services over time and expand to other important crops for food security (e.g. rice).
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

To initiate the development of the innovation we have acquired a seed capital fund (June 2015) from the Cyprus Industrial Innovation funding scheme. We have received an Innovation Voucher (Oct. 2015) of 5,000€ from the Research Promotion Foundation of Cyprus. We intend to acquire additional funding from Business Angels and our participation in the international accelerator Startup-Scaleup will help to that and also by applying to Horizon 2020.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

In the emerging area of AgTech few companies are offering data-driven Agriculture like ClimateCorp and PrecisionHawk in USA. They are developing their methods to treat all the different kinds of crops as a whole. Our project is specialised only in Viticulture and we intend to combine technology with tradition by working closely with viticulturists that have farming knowledge passed down through generations. Viticulture holds a great complexity with different indigenous vine varieties and by creating data warehouses with environmental and historical data we will be able to perfect our methods.
Team

Founding Story

The economic crisis forced a great number of the highest calibre people to emigrate from the Mediterranean region and that made us to seek innovative ideas on how to exploit the regional assets in order to achieve economic growth and reverse the brain drain. Agriculture and especially the winemaking industry have been always one of the strong assets of the region however the methods used in the viticulture are not utilising modern technology. Viticulture is a high-value crop and any technological leap that adds value will have manifold benefits. It could affect positively a series of economic sectors that are related with viticulture (e.g. wine-tourism) and create a great number of new jobs.

Team

Dr Andreas Kartakoullis (Founder) is an Academic Entrepreneur and an Innovator. He holds a PhD in Physics from the Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH). Andreas has received a Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher fellowship for completing his PhD research at FORTH under the Initial Training Network ICONIC. During his studies, he participated as a Research Assistant in various interdisciplinary research projects ranging from basic science to biomedical engineering. The vast majority of them were involving different Imaging and Spectroscopic techniques such as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), Spectral Imaging, Mass Spectrometry and Chemical Imaging. He has published seven peer-review articles in high-impact scientific journals and several conference proceedings. He has developed a novel method for early cancer diagnosis by using spectral analysis techniques and statistical modelling on images. Andreas is full-time committed and responsible for the development of AgriVeritas services especially for the development of the drone-based hyperspectral imager and the processing methods for the diagnosis of plant pathogens. Dr Alexandros Kyriakides (CTO) is an Academic Entrepreneur and an Innovator. His main research interests are in the field of Artificial Intelligence. He has received Bachelor and Master degrees, in Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from the University of Cyprus. While pursuing his PhD, Alexandros worked as a researcher at the KIOS Research Center for Intelligent Systems and Networks. His PhD thesis work focused around the development of a bio-inspired noise-robust speech recognition system. Ever since his senior year at MIT, he has worked on several machine learning projects. These projects have included classification of news articles and images, classification of textual product descriptions, fuzzy matching of company information, classification of Raman signals, and speech signal classification. Alexandros has developed an entrepreneurial mindset and skills by working in number of different startups in the fintech sector by working on large software projects, as lead engineer. He has extensive experience in designing and implementing software systems for applications requiring processing of large amounts of data and intense analytics. He has successfully applied machine learning predictive models in commercial applications for optimizing business decisions based on financial data and online user activity data. Alexandros is full-time committed to AgriVeritas and responsible for developing the software system for cloud computing and big data analytics. Dr Chrysafis Andreou (CSO) is an Academic Entrepreneur and an Innovator. He has received Bachelor degrees in Physics (with Honors) and Mathematics, from The Pennsylvania State University, and a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cyprus. His Ph.D. research, at University of California Santa Barbara, focused on the chemical detection using spectral methods in microfluidic devices. Chrysafis has extensive experience in hyperspectral image analysis using multivariate statistical methods. He has employed his expertise in spectroscopic imaging to the detection of narcotics, as well as the diagnosis of cancer. He has also extensive experience in hardware and optics integration, and maintains a large network of collaborators in American industrial and academic circles. Chrysafis is part-time commitment to AgriVeritas and he is working on the development of spectral analysis methods to determine the ripening levels of the grapes. Mr Loukas Antoniou (Business Coach) is a Financial Advisor and a Chartered Accountant. He holds a BSc (Hons) in Public & Business Administration (Accounting), from the University of Cyprus and MSc in Finance, from the University of Warwick. Loukas has significant experience in the management of a plethora of projects in the full spectrum of financial advisory, valuation and transaction services. Especially in financial modelling projects, for example: (i) projections and debt restructuring modelling for one of the largest trading companies in Cyprus, (ii) budgeting, financing and consolidation modelling for a global ship owning and management company, (iii) scenario building for a global ship owning and management company (divestment via share and asset deals), and (iv) scenario building for one of the largest trading companies in Cyprus (divestment/sale and leaseback). Loukas is part-time committed to AgriVeritas and responsible for advising about the business strategy of the company.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

f6s.com

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder and CEO

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

AgriVeritas is our first entrepreneurial activity.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We are working closely with the Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH) and with the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT) for developing our innovation that requires significant research and development. In addition, we have agreed with end-users (Antoniades and Lyrarakis wineries) that are located in Cyprus and Greece for conducting pilot studies at their vineyards during the summer of 2016. Recently, we have been accepted in the Startup-Scaleup accelerator that consists of 4 international hubs in Spain, Ireland, Netherlands and Lithuania. Through our participation in the Startup-Scaleup accelerator we will grow internationally.