Written by: Sugandha Agarwal, News Team Member
This article was updated on 01/16/19 to reflect the change that Thind teamed up with professor Beg after the company was established.
In 2016, Gurman Thind, an engineering graduate student from SFU established the company Beriqo Inc, later teaming up with SFU professor Faisal Beg. The company is set to launch a new crop imagery tool, an imagery management system (IMS) that uses satellite imagery to visualize agricultural crops, in spring 2019.
“The IMS is a satellite imagery database and projection system which provides 24/7 access to fresh and archived images with timestamps,” Thind explained in an interview with The Peak. “Farmers can analyse and compare crop health using fresh and archived images for a growing season.”
According to an SFU press release, the software collects “weather data from thousands of land-based stations in the U.S., Canada and Brazil”, at the same time, sifting through thousands of satellite images to create a repository. The resultant visual data along with growing degree days (GDD) data (a measure of how much heat is available for growing crops) can then be viewed on a single GPS-embedded platform.
Compatible with a multitude of devices such as mobile phones, Thind further explained to The Peak that “farmers can create an account and access all built-in application on a single SaaS (Software as a Service) platform. The platform has a secure authentication process and e-commerce system.”
The new IMS platform will allow farmers access to a “decision analytic toolbox, assisting them to disperse chemicals effectively to the right field areas — reducing excessive fertilization and greenhouse gas,” according to a media release by the university. Up-to-date data from the IMS will also help farmers save water by scheduling irrigation.
Thind said that growing up on a farm in India, he had always wanted to combine his engineering background with farming. After moving to Canada to finish his bachelor’s degree, Thind started to think of ways to achieve this goal. He began by interviewing farmers across the Canadian prairies, and he discovered that there was a need for sustainable farming practices.
“Carbon emission [is] high and agriculture results in 13 percent of global emission. Our technology will help farmers in reducing the use of excessive fertilizer input which results nitrous oxide emission,” says Thind. He also explained how the data from the IMS can help farmers with scheduling irrigation, and therefore save water.
Referring to the challenges Beriqo Inc. faced in the early stages of developing the IMS, Thind says that “the important part was understanding how users will interact with the system, and this resulted in well-defined goals”. Nevertheless, he acknowledges that new innovations always come with a degree of risk, and he is excited about Beriqo’s projects for next year, both of which have to do with the use of artificial intelligence in agricultural technology.
With files from SFU News.