Start-up sees future farmers using hydroponics, smart tech

Ko Htet Aung Hlaing, founder of local start-up HydroPlant, wants to revolutionise farming in Myanmar. “HydroPlant is expanding its two business arms. The first one is disseminating hydroponic technology and selling the required equipment. We build greenhouses. The second is selling smart precision systems,” he said.

The smart precision systems offer information that farmers need via a smartphone, including an automatic control system. For example, a machine measures the required temperature and humidity of a crop, which can be monitored via a smartphone. Depending on the temperature, the user can operate systems such as automatic watering or air temperature controls.

“For farmers who grow plants in soil, machines will add the right amount of fertiliser automatically. Also, automatic spraying systems save water. We’re selling these systems now, which about 15 mushroom farmers are using,” he said, adding that the system can help farmers reduce labour costs and increase production.

“We mainly focus on mushrooms, which are grown in an enclosed space, so it is easy to monitor the temperature and moisture with machines. We order the hardware from foreign countries and rewrite the software to meet local needs,” Ko Htet Aung Hlaing said.

Ready to help farmers

“Farmers can input the necessary data for their crops themselves, or they can ask us for advice, as we have agricultural graduates and experts. We can teach mushroom farmers everything they need to know.

“We have two kinds of systems: an online control system that costs K90,000, with a total price of K197,000 including all the equipment, like fans and water misters, and a system that switches between online and offline that costs K60,000, with a total price of K150,000 for all the equipment,” he said.

Ko Htet Aung Hlaing is conducting a study to use HydroPlant in the field. “If it is successful, we will arrange to use it in Myanmar’s central plains, but now we’re only using it for greenhouse farming of vegetables and other crops,” he said.

For now, HydroPlant’s technology is suited to growing only one kind of plant or similar species together, but farmers will have problems if they try to use it to grow different kinds of plants together because they will require different amounts of energy.

HydroPlant’s ultimate goal is to raise farmers’ productivity and income by modernising the methods they use and replacing them with hydroponics, thus eliminating the need for soil and reducing the use of pesticides, the risk of diseases, and the need for water by 80 percent.

“Using traditional methods, we can’t accurately estimate how much water a plant needs, and it is not good if too much fertiliser and pesticides is applied. But our machines and technology can measure accurately and provide the correct amounts. Better quality can be obtained by using HydroPlant,” he said.

“Hiring a worker for traditional farming costs between K70,000 and K100,000 a month. This amount is equal to the cost of our system. Our machines can be used for months before they break, and we offer a six-month warranty. It will help farmers double their yields,” he added.

Plans for livestock sector

He said that eventually the machines will be able to be used for livestock. “On poultry farms, chickens don’t have an appetite in hot weather. They require showers so that they can cool down and eat again. Our machines can do that.

“We are also working on a pesticide spraying system using flying drones, which will be ready in another one-and-a-half years. We won’t sell the drones but rent them out, and the price will depend on the size of the field. It now takes seven days to spray an acre, but with a drone, it can be finished within one-and-a-half to two hours. We are still testing the system, but it will be affordable for farmers.”

“Our system is convenient for anyone with a good internet connection, such as in Yangon and surroundings. In areas that do not have this, only the systems using solar and switches will be convenient for now. The online system is very simple, with commands like open, close, temperature and humidity in the Myanmar language.”

HydroPlant recently won third place at the Seedstars world competition in Yangon and will join its Investment Readiness programme, which aims to prepare start-ups to accept investments.

Earlier this year, HydroPlant was chosen as one of five tech start-ups to join Phandeeyar Accelerator’s Cohort 3, which creates opportunities to start and grow tech start-ups. Those accepted will receive up to US$25,000 (K37.9 million) in investments, office space, services from strategic partners, including Amazon Web Services and Facebook, six months of coaching from over 50 local and international mentors, and access to a network of venture capital investors. – Translated

Source: Myanmar Times

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