By 2050, the global population will grow to an estimated 9.8 billion. Feeding this quickly growing community means that agricultural production must increase by 70 percent.
That’s why the Netherlands-based Waterwatch Cooperative is developing a global vegetation database and information services to help farmers grow food more efficiently, profitably and sustainably.
Chairman Ad Bastiaansen founded Waterwatch Cooperative in 2014 to give the estimated 570 million farmers across the globe easy access to information about weather, water supply, and crop conditions.
A serial entrepreneur, Bastiaansen was an executive at digital map maker, Tele Atlas, which was sold to automotive navigation system manufacturer TomTom in 2008 for €2.9 billion. Now he’s applying that geographic know-how to farming. He says, “Agriculture is the least digitized area.” Using a wide variety of data sources (for example, satellite data and data received from farmers), Waterwatch Cooperative plans to record and analyze crop-specific data, meter-by-meter around the world.
“A farmer can be the loneliest person – he needs to make decisions everyday by himself that can determine if he gets an income or not,” says Bastiaansen. Waterwatch Cooperative connects agricultural workers with up-to-the-minute, accurate data to help them make more informed decisions. For example, the Waterwatch Cooperative database and information services provide farmers with predictive, geographically-specific information to help them qualify irrigation decisions on the spot.
In collaboration with SAP, Waterwatch Cooperative developed the Crop Disease Alert app, which the company reports has already led to a 25-40 percent reduction in incidents of crop diseases. Waterwatch Cooperative built the app on SAP Cloud Platform, an open platform-as-a-service with in-memory capabilities, which allows the app to analyze and distribute insightful information.
The Crop Disease Alert app works by monitoring growing conditions. If aberrations are detected, like a temperature increase or heavy rains, the app assesses the crop infection risk and notifies the farmer immediately – who can apply the appropriate treatment proactively.
“Our app sends alerts of any potential threat right to farmers’ smartphones. It is really quite revolutionary,” says Bastiaannsen. “We expect that 1 million smallholder farmers across the globe will be using the app by the end of 2019.”
The app also helps reduce the unnecessary use of pesticides by farmers by up to 15 percent.
Bastiaansen is hopeful about future applications for Waterwatch Cooperative technology. He says, “In Vietnam there’s declining coffee production because of climate change. But with real-time information, we can give daily instructions about how to adjust farming methods in the field and bring farmers’ efficiency back up to regular levels.” He believes that if they succeed in Vietnam, then they can help the entire coffee bean belt, which spans about 50 countries along the equator.
As Waterwatch Cooperative grows, the company expects to add 1.2 petabytes of data daily covering all agricultural land worldwide. This data will include information from wide variety of sensors — measuring things like soil moisture, land-surface temperature or biomass — weather and climate data, as well as information regarding agricultural best practices.
Ronald Lanjouw, Waterwatch Cooperative’s technology officer, says, “The challenge is making huge amounts of data and very complex algorithms very easy to use. That is the beauty of Crop Disease Alert. SAP Cloud Platform gives us the power to make it all possible.”
SAP just announced that 10,000 customers use SAP Cloud Platform globally as the foundation of their intelligent enterprise. To learn more, see SAP Cloud Platform Empowers More Than 10,000 Customers Globally to Become Intelligent Enterprises.