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Shelley Barak, iShence:

Israel: “Automatic crop steering with drain analyzer helps growers maximize yield and quality”

"We don't just analyze the water; we automatically use the results to adapt the irrigation and fertigation, and even combine the system with environmental sensors," says Shelley Barak of iShence. The Israeli Agtech company has been noticing an increase in demand lately, thanks to shifts in their domestic market. "The Israeli cannabis market is moving more towards indoor growing, as the greenhouse growers were experiencing bacteria and mold contaminations. As we specialize in solutions for indoor cultivation, we have definitely noticed an increasing interest." Recently, iShence launched their newest solution, the Drain Analyzer. "It is used for crop steering to maximize yield and quality, adjusting in real-time according to the plant's water and nutrient intake and environmental conditions."

Automatic crop steering
So how does their newest system work? "The Drain Analyzer analyses the drain coming out of the plant when irrigating a crop in a soilless medium. We collect the water coming out of the plant after the irrigation and measure the quality and quantity of it. Because of the irrigation and fertigation system, we know exactly how much water and nutrients we started with. When analyzing how much water comes out and with what quality, it is a great help for growers to optimize their irrigation and fertigation," Barak explains. But growing plants is, of course, not just about the water. Therefore, the system also has environmental sensors and controllers. If the temperature gets higher, there will be more evaporation and thus a need for more irrigation. The system will adapt to this automatically.

According to Barak, growers have been struggling to find the right amount of water and nutrients to optimize production. "That's the reason why we developed this system. It works in combination with our irrigation and fertigation system and can thus be used for crop steering. By purposely stressing the plants, they can increase growth rate, yield, and quality. Knowing how and when to manipulate irrigation, climate and light intensity, and spectra is essential to balancing high yields and high quality. That is why we use pulse irrigation, for example, to signal to the plant that it is time to take advantage of what is currently available."

Identifying issues
When analyzing exactly how much water and nutrients come in and out, it also helps to identify when any problems caused by different factors are occurring. "Recently, the plants from one of our clients did not drink enough water. That is how the grower figured out that there was a problem with the CO2 controller, and the plants weren't getting enough CO2. Another client noticed through the Drain Analyzer that something was going wrong two days before there was a video indication of a pest in the production. Such early findings are of great importance, as it is critical in such situations to take action as soon as possible."

Empowering all growers
From small growers to large operations, it was iShence's goal to make their system accessible to everyone. "You don't need to be an agronomist to understand how to use our systems, as we want them to be available to all growers. Now small growers can have the same kind of information and power over their production as large operations do." While cannabis growers were the early adopters of iShence's technology, as they were looking for more advanced solutions for their expensive crop, they are now also having great success among soilless tomato and berry growers. "We are excited that more growers are reaping the benefits of our solutions and are excited to soon be expanding into new markets, such as North America, as well," Barak adds.

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