Maysara Dar Khalil and Maryam Hamdan are anything but your average entrepreneurs. When the technology firm where they work expanded into the agricultural area, the two coworkers from Snipe Technologies saw an opportunity to apply their programming and technological talents to make planting smoother and more efficient for farmers.
The initial concept for Agrilive was a simple system that merely collects information about the level of minerals present in the soil and then translating it to the user. However, the system was later modified so that it could also control the flow of water into the soil. Once they recognized the potential of their concept, Maryam and Maysara wanted to create a more advanced system; one that was more suited to the needs of users and tailored to their preferences. Accordingly, their idea sprang into the current version of Agrilive: a solution that consists of a device that gathers information from the soil, then analyzes and takes action to manage the amount of water and fertilizer used to maintain healthy crops.
Though Agrilive was scoring great results in testing, local farmers did not jump at the chance to use the solution. Farmers were hesitant of taking such risk that might result in negative outcomes since it directly affects their primary source of income and might ruin their produce. Because the team were not known among farmers and in order to convince them, they decided to install the first batch of solutions for free as a trial phase.
The team’s technical skills did not make up for the lack of their business and marketing skills. that is why Maysara was delighted to stumble upon a post on social media calling for applications for the AgRE-Minds Hackathon. According to Maysara, “It was an opportunity to improve our business development, marketing, pitching skills, as well as our expertise of artificial intelligence.” This was particularly important to the team as business and marketing efforts are vital for the startup’s success.
“The hackathon will always be the turning point for Agrilive! It was a magical moment once we were announced as winners in the hackathon, and we were eagerly waiting to start the incubation! Participating in that hackathon and having the opportunity to enroll in the incubation program opened our eyes to new renewable energy and artificial intelligence, both of which we see as critical pillars for AgriLive’s future.” – Maryam Hamdan
Maysara explained that the team’s business and marketing skills as well as his pitching abilities have improved. He also stated that now their name is out there and their brand’s recognition has increased. He added, ‘Working together and assisting one another in identifying solutions made us a stronger team.’
Following their winning in the hackathon, AgriLive granted them a spot in the incubation program, which aided them to further develop their existing prototype. For example, artificial intelligence support and expertise were provided to the team to assist them in developing and successfully operation their prototype; financial and technical assistance was also provided to design and build their prototype’s needed hardware upgrades; and finally, the team was able to design and launch a marketing campaign as a result of financial resources and marketing expertise received.
“Through the incubation, we were able to upgrade our prototype, adopt new technologies, and test the solution for one month with the assistance of Al Barakeh farms who allowed the solution to be used on a portion of their strawberry crops. So far, the results have been excellent. The crops have been healthy, growing at the expected rate, and producing adequate quantities of produce.’ As a result of this success, Al Barakeh decided to purchase the prototype from us due to the significant difference in yields between this year and last year with and without the prototype. – Maysara Abdullah
The team presented the same idea, after adjusting their pitch based on knowledge gained from the hackathon training sessions, which resulted in them winning first place at the regional Future Agriculture Competition, powered by the Agribusiness accelerator. Now, they will compete in the international FAC competition in Greece where they will be able to present their idea to international investors. “We will keep developing Agrilive to provide a real value for customers by being adaptive, intelligent, and customizable through artificial intelligence along with hardware enhancements”, Maysara explained.
The team looks forward to see Agrilive and other Snipe products in foreign markets. Clearly, this dream does not seem farfetched as several customers outside of Palestine are requesting the product. However, the team does not have a clear criterion for exporting the devices yet but will keep researching until they find the right approach.
Alongside enhancing their marketing and social media presence, Maysara and Maryam are currently seeking external support to help them replace the website by a cross-platform mobile app for IOS and Android to make the solution more convenient and versatile for users. They are also looking forward to having a larger stock of raw materials and expand the workplace once they identify potential financial assistance. Maryam concludes, “We want to keep enhancing our artificial intelligence software, and consistently provide high value solutions that will make the users’ lives’ easier and better!”