Serbian startup Smart Watering Solutions, based in Novi Sad, has developed a distributed IoT irrigation management solution, which can be solar-powered and is now used at the biggest orchard in Serbia, and its goal is for the app to cover at least 500 hectares of agricultural land by end-2019. But success didn’t happen overnight, founder Lazar Jovanović tells Balkan Green Energy News as he recalls the startup’s student-day beginnings.
“It all began in late 2015, when I planted a hazelnut orchard on my family’s farm. At the time, I was looking to buy a remote-control irrigation system for the orchard and could not find one on the market,” Jovanović tells Balkan Green Energy News. Jovanović, today an electrical and computer engineer, proceeded to team up with his friend and university dorm roommate Zoran Đukić to develop one such system.
“First we developed a controller operated via text messages, which later grew into a mobile app to which we started adding new features,” says Jovanović.
However, things did not always run smoothly for these bright young people, as they had no experience developing such systems early on.
“We faced many difficulties – from selecting the right equipment to having to resolve software problems. But we were armed with patience and we overcame all the difficulties. We approached every single problem as a challenge and an opportunity to learn something new. When you take that kind of approach, the outcome is almost always positive and an appropriate solution is found in the end,” says the 26-year-old.
Can-do attitude and perseverance crowned with success
Then the awards came. Smart Watering won an agricultural and agribusiness innovation competition organized by SerbiaStartUp as part of Future Agro Challenge, in what gave it an opportunity to represent Serbia at the competition’s global final in South Africa.
In 2017, the startup won the Best Entrepreneur in Agribusiness award in the Youth Heroes competition organized by the Exit foundation and oil company NIS.
And then, in 2018, Smart Watering entered the Delta Business Incubator as one of only seven startups selected among 163 applicants.
“Participation in the Delta Business Incubator meant a great deal, as Delta Agrar’s mentorship and financial assistance helped us develop software enabling fully automated irrigation. Our application is now smart enough to independently make irrigation decisions based on field data and to control the process without human intervention,” Jovanović says.
Smart Watering at Serbia’s largest orchard and plans for the future
The application of the Smart Watering solution at Serbia’s largest orchard, spanning over 400 hectares, followed suit. The orchard is owned by agribusiness Delta Agrar, part of Delta Holding.
Asked what all is needed to deploy the system and how much needs to be invested, Jovanović explains that a user needs to have an irrigation system in place, as well as a mobile network signal. The Smart Watering systems can run on plots of land that have an electricity connection and are solar-powered when there is no electricity connection. The investment depends on the scale of a specific project, Jovanović adds, noting that the system saves both time and money, as the control of all irrigation processes is only a click away.
Concerning the startup’s further development path, he says: “We are now cooperating with Delta Agrar and irrigation system development company Aquaduct, while we also reach significant user numbers through our website. We aim to cover at least 500 hectares of land with our app in Serbia by the end of 2019. We are also working on app improvements and new features.”