Verdi aims to give farmers granular control over crop irrigation

Verdi, which launched today at TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield, refers to its smart valve clusters as “swarms.” The term denotes the kind of high-density implementation the company is looking to roll out in farms across North America. Retrofitted with existing irrigation technology, the aim of its system is to give farmers more control over the irrigation they send to their crops.

The system utilizes third-party data collected by satellites (and, in the future, drones) to determine which parts of a specific crop aren’t receiving enough water. The system breaks the crops up into small zones and utilizes machine learning to help the proper amount of water to get to where it needs to be.

“There’s a lot of variations in the way that plants grow, and that’s due to variations in soil and climate, which can happen over just a few meters in a field,” co-founder and CEO Arthur Chen tells TechCrunch.

“Their existing infrastructure really only allows them to do these one-size-fits-all treatments, treating every plant in the same way, even though they all have unique growing requirements. What we’re trying to do here is to give farmers the ability to customize water and, say, fertilizer application for individual groups of plants, or even single plants in a field.”

The company started life in 2019 as a spinout of the University of British Columbia. Fittingly, most of their original tech has been rolled out locally in B.C., owing in part to Covid-19-related travel restrictions.

For now, installing the system requires a representative to be in attendance, so Verdi has kept much of its trials in its own province, since rolling out in early January. There are, however, systems being piloted in California and Washington State, as well.

Per its numbers, the system is capable of reducing irrigation costs by up to 80%, and offering up to ten times more precision than more traditional methods. The company’s primary pitch to farmers is more accurate irrigation, though the company would do well to lean on the potential water reduction while pitching to potential investors, who are almost certainly looking for more green companies for their portfolio. Certainly drought-plagued California could do well to look at more potential water-saving solutions.

To date, the team of four full-time employees has raised $1.08 million in pre-seed funding, courtesy of Startup Haven, Rarebreed Ventures and Alchemist Accelerator.

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