Synelixis

Precision agriculture enabled by federated machine learning and autonomous farming procedures.

Technology: Sensors and/or Cameras, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Ledger Technology, 5G. // Domain: Agri-Food // Location: Greece

SDG Engagement:

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Synelixis Solutions is a one-stop provider of technology solutions in areas such as precision agriculture, energy efficiency, warehouse automation, and communication networking. The Greek company was founded in 2007 and has since operated as a technical consulting team specialised end-to-end in design, integration, deployment, and ongoing support of multi-vendor technology solutions.

Synelixis has entered into a range of strategic partnerships, having 38 employees working in close collaboration with world-renowned companies to ensure complete technology solutions that serve the needs of professionals, industries, businesses, and home users.

The Synelixis team experiences that technology superiority is transforming traditional industries into more modernised systems with early adopters at the forefront. Synelixis’ proposition to one such industrial evolution is a solution for smart agricultural applications called SynField, which is offered to an industry currently subject to technological transformation.

SynField is an IoT solution applied in plantations and agricultural land that feeds intelligence into the process of growing crops and helps farmers control farming procedures remotely. Essentially, the solution facilitates agricultural automation and precision. As of 2022, more than 220 SynField systems are installed in eight different countries.

Video: Introduction to the SynField solution.

The incentive of Synelixis to develop the IoT solution derives from a national concern of sectoral obsoleteness in a key domain of Greece: the agricultural domain. Looking towards the market, Synelixis decided to unite the gap in the domain with the company’s perceptive proficiency and know-how of wireless sensor networks, which Synelixis had gained through involvement with several European research projects. Synelixis started to design their own IoT solution for enhanced precision agriculture, finding it a beneficial application domain both for the company to capitalise on their expertise and for the entire sector to become more digital.

“We could definitely see that there was a need in the market. Starting here in Greece there were no such solutions that were that smart at that time.”
Terpsi Velivassaki, Senior software engineer and business developer, Synelixis Solutions

SynField was conceptualised in 2013, and rapid development led to the initial installation within the first year. Over the next five years, SynField expanded beyond Greek borders, established strategic partner collaborations to enhance capabilities of the solution, and refined several iterations of both the hardware and software. SynField has grown to be a full-stack IoT solution for automation and optimisation of agricultural processes, covering both physical devices and a cloud-based platform where all information is being gathered and intelligence resides. The latest version was released in 2022, simultaneously supporting up to 32 different kinds of sensors and actuators, and a SynField app was launched in 2020.

The integrated solution, including the core physical component, is designed and developed in-house. R&D efforts, as well as partnerships with agronomists, agricultural universities, and research centres, empower the technological superiority of SynField – a trait Synelixis strives for in all their solutions.

SynField is a combination of software development and hardware engineering that, based on IoT, telecommunications, and cloud technologies, offers precision farming applications to the modern farmer. These applications cover irrigation water management, precision fertilisation, pressure network management, and prediction of diseases in the crops.

Case_Synelixis_SynField-NodeIllustration 1: The SynField Node.

The core component of the SynField solution is the SynField Node, a device that acts as a connection portal and supports a variety of networked sensors and actuators. Connected to a range of sensors, the node has the capability of sensing and processing physical parameters. Apart from processing, it has the capability of wirelessly communicating the processed data to the external peripherals, via a number of communication interfaces including 5G (NB-IoT[1]), as well as WiFi[2], GPRS/EDGE[3], LoRaWAN[4] and IQRF[5]. This enables the farmer to capture and measure a multitude of parameters in their cultivated areas, such as temperature, humidity, solar radiation, wind intensity, flow, pressure etc. in different elements such as air, soil, and water. The SynField node is essential for transmitting sensor data to the cloud as well as for sending commands from the cloud to the actuators. This creates a network of devices that communicate and respond to the information gathered by the strategically located sensors through wireless links.

The node is compatible with the SynCloud and a wide portfolio of sensors and actuators, which are offered as modules based on the needs of the individual farmers. SynField is thereby a flexible solution suitable for a variety of agricultural purposes and relevant for small to large farms.

 

Case_Synelixis_enabling-technologiesIllustration 2: Key enabling technologies for the SynField solution.

The data collected by the sensor node is visualised on a customized dashboard on the web based SynField platform. The dashboard offers a complete overview with real-time monitoring of the user’s cultivated areas while providing statistical insights and basic analytics across monitored parameters. The user is further able to control the installations through manual and/or automated processes. As the user interacts with the platform over time, the dashboard will update based on the user’s preferences.

Case_Synelixis_dashboardIllustration 3: The data collected by the SynField solution can be accessed via dedicated web and mobile applications that allow the user to monitor farming processes via dashboards and control the  precision applications.  

In extension of the SynField platform, the solution covers a web and mobile based client application, facilitating remote monitoring of the dashboard data available on the web, as well as a control application, facilitating configuration of sensors and actuators at the field at low level (e.g., when debugging problematic nodes).

The SynField is an intelligent precision agricultural solution, with the intelligence supported by three levels of autonomy:

  • Level 1: No automation: the farmer manually configures all actuators and monitoring parts. For any action, the farmer must press a button.
  • Level 2: Rules based automation: the farmer manually sets up schedules and rules for all actuators and monitoring parts. Actions are automated based on the schedule and rules. Based on the configuration made by the user, notifications are provided when interesting events occur (e.g., if crops are in increased risk of diseases, if irrigation is not ideal etc.) and actuators are automatically activated or deactivated when specific environmental conditions and/or timings are met. Basically, this level of automation relies on a set of rules for different parameters, which is configured either by the user or by SynField’s predefined Smart Rules templates.
  • Level 3: Full automation: the farmer does nothing but let the agricultural metrics control the activities of actuators and monitoring parts. Actions are automated and no human interference is needed at any time.

This mentality has been an essential cornerstone in the development of SynField and is generally applicable for the technological superiority Synelixis continues to strive for: designing solutions that are as autonomous as possible and as adaptable as possible.

The development of Synelixis’ IoT solution is a pronounced contribution to both domestic and international ambitions for intelligent precision agriculture. This ambition is prevalent in fostering impactful climate initiatives, and is well assisted by the obtainable effects of precision agriculture, such as reduction in amounts of resources, effort, time, and money spent, compared to the traditional processes in the domain of cultivation.

“I am not claiming that SynField is the solution that could save the climate, but if similar solutions get adopted on scale, we could have a positive impact on that side.”
Terpsi Velivassaki, Senior software engineer and business developer, Synelixis Solutions

The noticeable effects derive from the specific applications of SynField, such as:

  • Irrigation control: by remotely managing and automating irrigation actuators, irrigation services can be optimised to achieve up to 55% reduction of water consumption.
  • Climate monitoring: by monitoring soil, atmospheric and crop conditions, specialised metrics such as Growing Degree Days and Evapotranspiration can be generated and forecasted, which is helpful to manage and optimise fertilisation and irrigation activities.
  • Disease prediction: by sensing crop type, growth stage, and local weather conditions, a wide range of diseases can be predicted, which allows farmers to target their crop protection.

Ultimately, this data-driven precision ensures maximum yield for the farmer while protecting the environment.

“The value for the environment is quite significant because the use of water is reduced by adopting the solution, while at the same time, the quality of the crops is significantly improved with less resources and less pesticides.”
Terpsi Velivassaki, Senior software engineer and business developer, Synelixis Solutions

To Synelixis, the SynField system constitutes an important product family and revenue stream of the company. This solution does not position the company at the exclusive forefront of artificial intelligence solutions, however in the agricultural domain, the vast majority of smart solutions provide only monitoring and advisory, rather than undertaking the actual automation of the fields. SynField is a pure IoT solution with the goal of automation, and without IoT, the offering would have no value.

“We’re not driving the IoT landscape right now, but we are making really good use of it and we push forward IoT concepts in a stable and secure way.”
Artemis Voulkidis, Technical director and product management, Synelixis Solutions

Case_Synelixis_SynField-installationIllustration 4: A SynField installation in Nemea (Greece) monitors the micro-clima conditions on vineyards.

For users of the solution, the direct outcome is a fully automated precision agriculture system. A fully automated system significantly decreases the workload of the entire domain, as well as spares a redundant use of resources for the community. The overall impact largely relies on the following distinctive traits of solution:

Remote management: The ability to monitor crop conditions in real time, 24 hours a day, and to manage crops anytime from anyplace through the SynField service applications, highly reduces the need for physical presence in the fields. This decreases the workload of farmers, meaning more time for other tasks, such as administrative, and less manual labour.

“SynField and similar solutions could be a decisive response to reducing the physical attendance on the agricultural domain.”
Terpsi Velivassaki, Senior software engineer and business developer, Synelixis Solutions

End-to-end customisation: SynField is customisable on the hardware and software modules of the solution. The optimal composition of sensors and actuators is evaluated and offered as modules tailored to the individual needs of the farmer. The dashboard supports both direct and inferred metrics while building on a multi-tenant architecture, meaning that users are able to configure inferred metrics themselves, illustrating the exact data aggregates, graphs, time series etc. relevant to their farming procedures. Finally, installation and support are optional services (video-tutorials and Q&As are offered as well to support installation and configuration of devices, dashboard, and control settings).

Convenient automation: The ability of the solution to function at different levels of autonomy ensures that SynField is applicable for all users in the agricultural domain. A key differentiator is the incorporation of high-tech technologies and intelligence in the decision-making process, leading data-driven agricultural metrics to form unbiased conditions for optimal health and growth of the plantation.

Throughout the past decade, Synelixis has been actively involved in all the processes around SynField, from design to commercialization and service. As a high-tech consulting company, development of the solution is straight-forward on the technical side, however, on the business side it is more complicated as it requires end-to-end involvement in the process. Today, experience with this involvement has led to a highly skilled team and cultivated IoT culture, creating the foundation of Synelixis and the ability to apply similar solutions in different domains.

Synelixis considers a number of points to be vital for the success of their IoT solution. Taking departure in the journey of SynField, these points are compiled into a list of recommendations below:

1. Identify a gap in the market

…and offer a clear value proposition that responds to that gap. SynField adds obvious benefits to the process of cultivating crops and for the farmers themselves, which Synelixis considers the number one cause of the success.

2. Think IoT

Driving a transition from traditional to digital application sets functionally at the forefront. In order to develop successful solutions in the IoT domain, the continuous interaction with the end users must be incorporated with the enabling technical expertise.

“Ideally, one should think IoT to build IoT. So build things with ability, compatibility and an autonomous character.”
Artemis Voulkidis, Technical director and product management, Synelixis Solutions

3. Collaborate and avoid lock-in

All sorts of collaborations are considered a potential source of mutual value. Synelixis finds it favourable to facilitate an open ecosystem that allows other providers in the smart agriculture domain to build solutions on top of the hardware and software of SynField. This supports the most novel solutions to reach the market and ensures vendor independency, meaning greater flexibility and control to the end-users, as they avoid being tied to just one provider.

4. Evolve your solution continuously

Offering a solution in the IoT domain should be seen as a process that is evolving throughout time. The solution must evolve along with technological trends to ensure constant technological excellence.

“Any capabilities that could be offered through the evolution of IoT is what we would also like to follow in the evolution of SynField.”
Terpsi Velivassaki, Senior software engineer and business developer, Synelixis Solutions

Hence, many advancements in the domain have been incorporated in the SynField solution throughout time, and the company is currently looking towards the incorporation of Edge Computing, autonomous drones and robots.

Case_Synelixis_dmat-result-NEWIllustration 5: Digital Maturity Radar Chart: Assessment of Synelixis by Terpsi Velivassaki, Senior software engineer and business developer.

Synelixis assumes a high level of digital maturity with an overall score of 4.68. The score indicates that the digital capabilities of the company are vastly mature, and that they perform above average for the agriculture, horticulture and forestry sector.

The Digital Maturity Assessment Tool is copyrighted by Associate Professor and PhD Annabeth Aagaard, Director at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Digital Business Development, Aarhus University. To get the digital maturity of your company mapped out, click here.

[1] Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT): a wireless cellular technology standard that addresses the LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) requirements of the IoT. It is classified as a 5G technology, standardised by 3GPP in 2016.

[2] Wi-Fi: a wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet access.

[3] GPRS (General Packet Radio Service): a packet-switching technology that enables data transfers through cellular networks. EDGE: a distributed computing paradigm that brings computation and data storage closer to the sources of data.

[4] LoRaWAN: a Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) networking protocol designed to wirelessly connect battery operated ‘things’ to the internet.

[5] IQRF: a matured, low power, simple, secure and interoperable wireless mesh technology for wireless communication via radio frequency (RF).

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