Israeli startup Saturas has secured $1 million to develop its precision irrigation sensor technology for permanent crops. This is its second round of funding after Israeli incubation organization The Trendlines Group first invested to found the startup in 2013.
Saturas’s sensing system comprises miniature implanted sensors and wireless transponders that can measure Stem Water Potential (SWP), a metric that’s widely-recognized as one of the most accurate for determining the water status of plants.
Current methods of obtaining an SWP measurement are labour intensive and expensive, according to a Saturas.
“This round is a significant milestone for Saturas. After developing the prototype and achieving proof of concept for the innovative technology, this funding will enable us to make significant progress in the next stages of development and bring us to our goal of bringing our first product to the market in 2018,” Anat Halgoa Solomon, Saturas’ CEO, told AgFunderNews. “This round demonstrates the trust that both the current shareholders and new important/influential investors have in Saturas’ huge potential.”
A mix of existing and new investors contributed to the round. The new names include banking veteran Shlomo Nehama, early stage tech investor Gefen Capital, and the Farmers’ Federation of Israel through its subsidiary Amir Supply. The Farmers’ Federation of Israel is an association of private farmers in Israel that invest in technologies that will help its industry.
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The existing shareholders that increased their commitment were incubation organization The Trendlines Group, Migal Galilee Research Institute, Trendlines CEO Anat Halgoa Solomon, and Dr. Moshe Meron, an Israeli lawyer and former politician.
Israel is the second most active hub for agtech innovation and investment in the world after Israeli startups collected $550 million in investment in 2015, according to AgFunder’s recent investing report. Israel is second to the US where agtech startups collected $2.4 billion of the $4.6 billion total invested globally during the year.
According to Saturas, its sensor is the only one that is embedded in tree trunks, providing direct contact with tree/plant water tissues. This enables an accurate measurement of the water status of the plant and eliminates any inaccuracies that are associated with placing sensors in the soil, or on leaves and branches.
With this more accurate information, farmers can irrigate more precisely, and at the right time to help boost the yield and quality of fruit crops. Saturas estimates that this can increase revenues by up to 20 percent while reducing water use by 10 percent to 20 percent. And that the market for irrigated orchards, vineyards, and cotton is worth more than $1 billion a year.
Saturas has earmarked the $1 million funding to complete development of the sensor, launch and operate full-scale beta testing sites worldwide, and begin market penetration.
“During the next year we expect to optimize the prototype and achieve good results from testing the system with a variety of crops worldwide,” Solomon said. “With these results, we will be able to prove to the farmers that Saturas’ precision irrigation technology can give them ongoing data on the actual water status of their crop with high efficiency and at a reasonably low cost. Farmers we are speaking with are waiting for this.”
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