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CropX Runs Soil Sensor Application on AWS to Help Global Farmers Enable Sustainability

2020

The global population is experiencing major growth, with the United Nations projecting an increase from 7.8 billion today to 9.8 billion by 2050. To meet this growth, agriculture must produce more food with less water. In fact, farmers already use 70 percent of available freshwater and 50 percent of habitable land. Lacking accurate irrigation and fertilization management capabilities, many farmers do not have comprehensive insight into soil conditions. As a result, farmers often provide either too much irrigation and fertilizer or too little, which wastes valuable resources and does not maximize yield potential.

CropX, an agricultural analytics company, is addressing this challenge by helping farmers integrate soil data with numerous above-ground data layers. “Most agricultural companies rely on above-ground data such as satellite imagery, and less than 10 percent of companies get data from within the soil, which is where the most valuable data is,” says Matan Rahav, director of business development at CropX. “By the time there are visible signs of crop stress detected from space, the damage is already done. We provide real-time data on soil moisture, salinity, and temperature, so farmers can be predictive and preventive and can determine whether a plant has received enough fertilizer even before the plant knows.”

However, many state-of-the-art soil sensors require lengthy and complicated installation and calibration, which contributes to rising costs and hinders scalability. “Sensors also create large amounts of raw data that farmers can’t easily interpret,” Rahav says. “The only way to process this data in real time, while integrating additional data layers, is in the cloud. As a startup company, we realized the cloud was our best option for quickly building and scaling our agricultural analytics application.”

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AWS enables us to collect raw data, process it in real time, and provide real-time recommendations that are specific to the crops, the geography, and the soil."

Sagi Briteman
Vice President of Research and Development, CropX

Using AWS to Support a Big Data, In-Soil Sensor Application

To solve the problem, the company chose to run its in-soil sensor data solution on Amazon Web Services (AWS). “AWS provides easy-to-deploy and scalable technology, managed with a simple console,” says Sagi Briteman, vice president of research and development for CropX. “It is also easy to establish the architecture. We started with building blocks, with uncertainty about our physical deployment and how much we needed. Using AWS, it was easy to create instances as we grew.”

The CropX big data solution captures data from thousands of global soil sensors and sends it to a centralized platform running on hundreds of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances. The solution analyzes and saves satellite imagery data to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets and uses Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) as its primary database and the core for storing all agronomical data and insights. Additionally, CropX relies on Elastic Load Balancing to support growing traffic from web and mobile devices, and it uses Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) to transfer messages between different services.

The CropX platform combines above-ground datasets with in-soil data measured by sensors that transmit that data to the AWS-based solution. The data is integrated with imaging, weather, topography, and soil data, as well as crop models, hydraulic models, and user inputs. It is then analyzed by AI-based algorithms to provide analytical insights via the CropX web or mobile app. Farmers, breeding companies, agrochemical companies, crop insurers, and irrigation system manufacturers use the app to receive irrigation and crop nutrition recommendations for their crops. “Our customers can use the app to view the updated status of soil readings, moisture levels, and root zones,” says Briteman. “We also provide alerts and notifications if their fields are too dry or too wet.”

Enabling Agricultural Sustainability

By running on AWS, CropX is helping its farming customers contribute to increased sustainability by using less energy and fewer resources. For example, during irrigation experiments using its technology, CropX has demonstrated more than 40 percent water savings across different crop types, with a 10 percent yield increase. “We have seen similar savings on fertilizers, energy, and labor because farmers spend fewer resources on travel and equipment,” says Rahav.

Farmers can also make better decisions about how much to irrigate their crops. “If you don’t irrigate enough, you don’t maximize your yield potential and you expose the crop to constant stress, so you’re not as efficient, which is a sustainability issue,” says Rahav. “Conversely, over-irrigation can cause fertilizer to reach groundwater, which creates pollution. It can also expose crops to disease through oversaturated soil. Using the soil data insights from our application, customers can maximize their yield potential and better control irrigation.”

Scaling to Support Fourfold Data Growth

CropX can now scale its in-soil data analytics platform to support four times more data than the company had two years ago. As a result, the company can ingest millions of data points per day, including soil sensor data such as soil moisture, salinity, and temperature. CropX can also scale to ingest more satellite imagery and real-time weather data to store in Amazon S3 buckets. “AWS enables us to collect raw data, process it in real time, and provide real-time recommendations that are specific to the crops, the geography, and the soil,” says Briteman. “We would not be able to support a big data analytics platform without the cloud.”

Deploying 9,000 Sensors across the Globe

CropX has fueled significant business growth by running on AWS. The company now serves more than 1,200 farming customers worldwide and has almost 9,000 sensors deployed. “We quadrupled our sales in the past year and we have expanded to dozens of countries because we can rely on AWS to manage the backend environment for our application,” says Rahav. “We don’t need to travel to new areas for new projects or installations. As a startup, we wouldn’t be where we are now if we weren’t running on AWS.”

In addition, CropX acquired CropMetrics, which provides cloud-based, precision irrigation tools. Through this acquisition, CropX is giving its customers access to in-soil data, advanced farm management analytics, and tools to support decision making. “We are exploring the use of AWS services such as AWS IoT to drive our expansion,” says Briteman. “AWS gives us the scalability we need to fuel our growth and help enable sustainable agriculture.”

To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/big-data/datalakes-and-analytics.


About CropX

CropX is an agricultural analytics company that develops cloud-based software solutions integrated with wireless sensors, which helps farmers boost crop yield. The company offers an advanced, adaptive farm management software service designed to deliver water and energy cost savings while conserving the environment.

Benefits of AWS

  • Enables agricultural sustainability
  • Scales to support a fourfold increase in soil sensor data
  • Quadruples annual sales
  • Supports 9,000 global sensors
  • Gives farmers new insights into their crops

AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

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Amazon RDS

Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud.

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