- US-based inputs and financing marketplace Farmers Business Network (FBN) and Israel-based precision spraying company Greeneye Technology have launched a multi-year partnership.
- FBN is also leading an undisclosed investment into Greeneye.
- The two will combine FBN’s customized crop protection plans with Greeneye’s AI-based precision spraying system that has reduced non-residual herbicide use by an average of 86% while achieving the same weed control and yield as traditional broadcast spraying.
- The combined package will launch for FBN farmers in the US initially for the 2024 growing season.
An ‘ironic’ investment
Greeneye launched its technology in early 2022 and also joined FBN’s Innovators Research League, one of North America’s largest field-trial programs.
Its AI-based precision spraying system was designed “with the purpose of turning every existing machine into a smart machine,” Greeneye CEO Nadav Bocher tells AFN. Farmers can retrofit existing machines with cameras and sensors; artificial intelligence recognizes in real time where the weeds are and farmers limit their spraying to just those areas.
At first glance, the partnership might seem odd, given that FBN sells crop protection chemicals and Greeneye is trying to lessen farms’ reliance on such substances.
FBN CEO Amol Deshpande says that Greeneye’s technology gives farmers the opportunity to “significantly reduce” the amount of volumetric chemical they need.
“From an FBN perspective, this is an ironic investment in the sense that we sell chem,” says Deshpande. “But really what we sell is ROI to the farmer. [Greeneye’s] innovation allows for a plethora of new opportunities with the customer.”
“It opens up degrees of freedom and how they negotiate and finance their operation, and how we finance them. This could have a profound impact on all inputs in the market, starting with herbicides, but over time, almost anything a farmer applies on the crop,” he adds. That might even include financing.
It also includes FBN’s Acre Packs, which are custom-made portfolios of products commodity farmers need for their crop protection. Farmers can put these packs of herbicides, pesticides and other inputs together digitally, online, based on what their individual fields need.
The power of the new partnership is in combining these features with Greeneye’s precision technology, says Deshpande.
“The digital innovation around Acre Pack put together with the artificial intelligence and the precision spraying that Greeneye brings to the table — that combination along with financing makes it very easy for the farmer to adopt,” he says. “We’re able to bring the whole experience together as a team with our partnership.”
“There are two sides to the coin,” adds Bocher. “The first is savings. But I think that tells you only part of the story. In order to maximize the value and the ROI to customers, it’s also a question of efficacy. Now that [farmers] have this precise spraying technology, how can [they] transform their crop protection program? How can they use the best possible chemicals that were not affordable when broadcast was the only alternative?”
“As a customer, you are getting a bundle: access to this technology, but also a customized crop protection program from FBN. That’s ensuring massive savings alongside improving of efficacy and weed control in a very challenging environment.”
Why it matters:
Farmers face a number of challenges when it comes to deploying herbicide on their fields. The agricultural sector is under pressure to reduce its impact on the environment. Herbicides can negatively impact both human and animal life as well as biodiversity.
Meanwhile, high input costs are still a top concern for farm producers. Ongoing supply chain issues further complicate this matter.
A farm spraying via traditional broadcast method, which applies herbicide to an entire field, shoulders the cost of spraying the whole crop area, including sections with no weeds.
The Greeneye system’s ability to detect and treat only those areas with weeds is potentially huge cost savings for farmers on crop protection. According to Greeneye data from recent on-farm field trials:
- During the on-farm field trial programs, the Greeneye system reduced non-residual herbicide use by an average of 86%; it achieved the same weed control and yield as traditional broadcast spraying.
- A field trial last summer at University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Agricultural Research Division (ARD) saw the Greeneye system reduce herbicide use in post-emergence applications by 87%.
- Greeneye says that trial represents “a cost saving to farmers of more than 60% – while achieving the same, or similar, levels of efficacy compared to broadcast spraying.”
- It also led to a 94% reduction in burndown herbicide use during pre-emergence spraying compared to broadcast
- application, representing a cost saving of $24.70/acre.
- Finally, the ARD trial saw an 87% reduction in non-residual herbicide use during post-emergence spraying compared to broadcast application, representing a cost saving of $40.50/acre.
Bocher says demand has been so high all available units for 2023 were allocated by the end of last year.
From an acreage perspective, he says last year the company did “tens of thousands of acres” for FBN members and non-FBN members. “Our expectation is to grow quite significantly from there and be a market leader.”
In 2022, FBN and Greeneye made the program available to a few members to get feedback. Now, it is available commercially to FBN members. Initially, the partnership launch will focus on the US; an expansion to Canada and possibly South America is also in the works.
“Those are the two immediate markets post-US, but we definitely think about [the partnership] as long term and global,” says Nadev.
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