In recent years, there has been growing awareness of the importance of sustainable agriculture. This is because the world's population is growing, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to produce enough food to feed everyone. About 2 years ago, I met Boris Koev and Konstantin Haralampiev who were vividly pitching me the idea of sustainable agriculture technology starting out in Bulgaria and growing towards the rest of the world. After familiarizing myself with the topic and understanding the potential and need for such an important project, we decided to set up a clear execution plan and get to work. The most important part was to understand what sustainable agriculture meant.
Sustainable agriculture involves using methods that preserve the environment, promote biodiversity, and ensure that future generations will be able to meet their food needs. One company that is making significant strides in sustainable agriculture is our portfolio company, AgroVAR.
Over the last 30 years, we’ve seen massive developments in agricultural hardware which have led to a whole new level of productivity. Better and more efficient machines collecting vast amounts of data, the use of drones and robots to substitute manual labor and all sorts of data providers give the farmers incredible amounts of information about their fields. This was the age of “Precision Farming”.
What Konstantin and Boris are showing us is the next step in the agricultural revolution - Decision Farming. In plain words, this is how all that data collected via machines, soil analysis, and satellites can be translated into making precise individual decisions at the right time for every field. Decisions that can help farmers become more resilient to rapid climate changes, improve their soil health with nature-based solutions and lower their operational costs in the process.
As in most businesses nowadays, data is key and agriculture is no exception. The AgroVAR software is analyzing over 2,000,000 data points per field in order to make specific individual recommendations for the use of cover crop mixes that can target identified soil problems and deficiencies. The integrated AI is able to check soil compatibility, climate compatibility, and crop compatibility and to track the progress of the given recommendations so the uncertainty of the results is lowered to a minimum. This can shorten the decision-making process of a farmer who wants to start transitioning from conventional to regenerative agriculture and using cover crops from over 100 hours to seconds.
AgroVAR is a company that is committed to helping farmers improve their soil health and crop yield while promoting sustainable agriculture practices. This journey is often complicated and involves a combination of practices that have to be specified according to the needs of every field. One way they do this is through the use of crop rotation. Crop rotation is the practice of planting different crops in a specific order in the same field. This can help reduce pests and diseases, improve soil health, and increase nutrient availability. By providing farmers with the knowledge and resources to effectively rotate their crops, AgroVAR is helping to improve crop yield while maintaining a healthy soil ecosystem.
The importance of crop rotation cannot be overstated. When the same crop is grown repeatedly in the same field, it can deplete the soil of essential nutrients, making it difficult for crops to grow. This can lead to reduced crop yields, lower soil fertility, and increased erosion. By rotating crops, farmers can help to break up disease and pest cycles and maintain soil health, which can lead to increased yields and improved sustainability.
The team even went a step further by actually deciding to grow the cover crop seeds in partnership with 4 large farmers in different parts of Bulgaria to make sure they are of the highest quality and there is no risk of selling untested products to their clients. They developed a strict standardized process for growing and analyzing the seeds before they are sent out for planting.
In addition to promoting crop rotation, AgroVAR also emphasizes the importance of improving chemical soil properties. Many conventional farming practices involve the use of synthetic fertilizers and other chemical inputs, which can have negative impacts on soil health and the environment. These practices can lead to soil erosion, nutrient loss, and water pollution. AgroVAR promotes the use of organic fertilizers and soil amendments to improve soil properties naturally.
The transition towards regenerative agriculture can be a difficult process for most farmers, but having a proper roadmap can help the farmers to not make costly mistakes. The next stage of the software will be able to give recommendations for the specific organic amendments, microbial products, and soil conditioners which farmers can use and their soil actually needs. This will further lower farmers' costs by improving the efficiency of product use per hectare.
Organic fertilizers are made from natural materials, such as compost or animal manure. They are rich in nutrients and improve soil structure, which can lead to increased water and nutrient retention. In addition, organic fertilizers promote beneficial soil microbes that help break down organic matter, making it available to plants.
On the other hand, soil amendments are substances that are added to soil to improve its properties. For example, adding lime to acidic soil can raise the pH, which can improve soil structure and nutrient availability. Other amendments, such as gypsum or calcium, can improve soil structure and water retention.
By promoting the use of organic fertilizers and soil amendments, AgroVAR improves soil health and reduces the negative impacts of conventional farming practices on the environment. This is an important step towards creating a more sustainable agriculture industry.
Another way that AgroVAR is promoting sustainable agriculture is through its focus on improving soil health and structure. Healthy soil is essential for promoting plant growth and productivity, as well as enhancing the overall ecosystem. By reducing tillage and maintaining soil cover, AgroVAR helps farmers create healthy soil that promotes optimal plant growth and productivity.
Reducing tillage involves minimizing soil disturbance, which can help to preserve soil structure and reduce soil erosion. This leads to improved soil health and increased water and nutrient retention. By maintaining soil cover, farmers can also improve soil health by promoting the growth of beneficial soil microbes and reducing soil erosion.
Additionally, AgroVAR helps farmers promote sustainability through the offsetting of carbon credits. Carbon credits are a way for businesses to offset their carbon emissions by supporting projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By participating in AgroVAR's carbon offset program, farmers can earn carbon credits by adopting sustainable agriculture practices. This can include practices such as reducing tillage, planting cover crops, and using organic fertilizers. The carbon credits earned by farmers can then be sold to businesses or individuals who want to offset their carbon emissions. By participating in this program, farmers can earn additional income while promoting sustainability and helping combat climate change. This is a win-win for everyone involved, as it encourages the adoption of sustainable agriculture practices while also supporting the growth of the green economy.
Overall, AgroVAR is making great strides toward promoting sustainable agriculture practices. By emphasizing the importance of crop rotation, improving chemical soil properties, and increasing soil health and structure, AgroVAR is helping farmers grow more sustainable crops, while also reducing their environmental impact. As we work towards a more sustainable future, companies like AgroVAR are leading the way in creating a better and brighter tomorrow for us all and Vitosha Venture Partners is proud to have AgroVAR as a portfolio company.