Putting an end to world hunger through smart agronomy solutionsMay 16th, 2022
Lilan Dayananda is a co-founder and the CEO at Elzian Agro. His organisation has been tackling world hunger through award-winning smart agronomy solutions. These innovations provide soil and weather monitoring systems to farmers who are affected by extreme weather changes and pests and who also have limited resources to service their farms. 25-year- old Commonwealth Correspondent Aminat Awogun from Nigeria spoke with Lilan, who is a 2022 Commonwealth Youth Awards Finalist.
What problem is Elzian Agro trying to solve?
90% of farmers lose their crop yield due to pests and diseases. They are usually unable to recognize what’s happening before it causes considerable damage. This crop wastage causes a direct economic loss to farmers.
Elzian Agro provides smart agronomy solutions through advanced automation systems for farmers who face extreme weather changes, pests, and diseases and have limited resources such as water, fertiliser, and labour.
We offer customised monitoring information gathered from the Internet of Things (IoT) to increase the crop yield and help to productively utilise our beneficiaries’ limited resources such as water, fertiliser, pesticides, and labour.
There’s also a pest prediction service through an advanced Machine Learning Model and Artificial Intelligence. Using our real-time monitoring and prediction systems, farmers can quickly respond to any significant change in soil and weather and adapt accordingly to maximise their harvest and positively impact zero hunger.
We are currently working on developing a traceability system based on blockchain to reduce contamination, disease, and spoilage, in food production and supply, before the products make it to the consumer markets. Our traceability systems will simultaneously protect consumer health, domestically and abroad.
How do the soil and weather affect the farmers’ productivity?
Soil is one of the crucial components which is needed for the survival of all living beings on the earth. Soil acts as a substrate for the growing plants and a habitat for organisms and provides food, fibre and fuel.
Healthy and productive soil is the fundamental resource for agriculture. Not only that, it enhances food production and maintains the balance of the ecosystem on earth.
Smart irrigation and precision agriculture play a vital role in crop production, which can be proven by comparing the yield of irrigated and non-irrigated lands. Researchers say that an irrigated land can have up to five times higher crop yields than that of the rain-fed fields.
It is most likely that climate change will make the situation worse and especially in this water dependent sector. Therefore, adopting effective and sustainable irrigation systems is necessary to alleviate the problems arising from the variability of climate and extreme weather conditions.
What are the challenges you have faced so far and how have you been able to overcome them?
The main challenge is the lack of awareness regarding smart agronomy concepts in developing countries. As technology progresses, the Internet of Things is becoming a part of the farmer’s arsenal and with this connectivity is a challenge.
Though we have Portable Monitoring Devices (PMDs) that can operate without any internet connectivity, a strong internet connection of 4G or higher will be required for many new technologies in precision agriculture. The lack of reliable connectivity is a big challenge for us in Sri Lanka.
The other challenge we’ve had was a lack of investment, so I applied for the Silicon Valley-based Founder Institute, the world’s largest startup accelerator program and successfully graduated from the programme to attract relevant investors to my startup.
Another challenge has been the economic instability in Sri Lanka. To mitigate the negative impacts, our management is obtaining advice from certified consultants and the prominent advisory board of Elzian Agro. Our advisory board which consists of university professors, entrepreneurs, and the Founder Institute’s local and international mentors plays a major role in strategizing go-to-market plans and pricing the products.
What are some of your achievements so far?
Elzian Agro was one of the local top finalists in the Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge, which was organised by the United Nations Development Project in 2019. Our Machine Learning Model was supervised by Ericsson officials, and received advice from Nobel Laureates by becoming the global second place in the Ericsson Innovation Awards in 2020.
Another big success was getting verified on our business model, value proposition and technologies from Silicon Valley-based world’s largest startup accelerator program called, Founder Institute in 2021.
Elzian Agro is also the leading technology partner for the world’s first Analog Forest (Belipola Arboretum).
The shift toward precision agriculture will usher in significant changes to the farming supply chain in Sri Lanka and around the world and contribute significantly to ending world hunger.
Photo Credit: Lilan Dayananda
About the Aminat Awogun: I am a pharmacist with interest in medical communications and clinical pharmacy. When I am not delivering pharmaceutical care, I am writing to inform, entertain, and influence people’s lives. With over 4 years of experience in the writing industry, my stories have been featured home and abroad. I also have a thing for marketing, reading and reviewing books.