What’s Bugging the Agritech Industry? Local Tech to the Rescue!

A Windsor company has developed software that is expected to revolutionize how the greenhouse industry manages its pest control systems across the province.

Splice Digital’s IPM Scoutek™software, a recent winner of $10,000 in the ScaleUP pitch competition launched by WEtech Alliance, will enable greenhouse workers or scouts to keep track of pests in greenhouses resulting in more effective control systems and healthier plants and vegetables.

In the past, pest management and scouting for pests has been largely a pen and clipboard operation. There has been little in the way of tracking year-over-year despite the fact the greenhouse sector is a multi-million-dollar industry with more than 3,000 acres under glass across the province.

“We met with representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and heard their concerns about pest management and we’ve been working on this software for a year or so,” explained Brian Hendel, President of Splice Digital. “We’ve essentially built a mobile app and web-based software platform which allows for touch-screen tracking of pests in a user-friendly system.”

The software is expected to make pest management across the greenhouse sector more efficient and effective, according to Niki Bennett, science co-ordinator for the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, an organization based in Leamington.

“It’s a very positive opportunity for our growers who are always looking to streamline their operations but it’s not always easy to do,” said Bennett. “The data can be captured by scouts within the greenhouses quite easily but keeping track of it year-over-year and developing a comprehensive plan to deal with the issue can be difficult.”

In many greenhouses, the information isn’t aggregated and it’s often not tracked from one year to the next to see if there are certain hot spots in greenhouses that need more careful monitoring and treatment plans.

“If the information is collected and left on paper, it’s not always easy to spot a trend but this software will make it easier to track issues and identify certain areas of a greenhouse that may, for some reason, be more susceptible to pests,” explains Bennett.

Hendel says a full rollout of the software and accompanying technology is still in the final stages of development but says his company is close to finalizing agreements for large-scale demonstrations across the industry.

“Once the information is gathered and entered into the system, growers will be able to see at a glance the status of their crop,” said Hendel. “There’s been a great deal of interest already and the next step is to get it into the marketplace for testing and validation.”

“It’s a pretty special piece of software, it looks attractive and it works very well,” said Hendel.

Hendel believes the market for his company’s software reaches beyond Ontario with California and Spain high on the list because of their high-density greenhouse regions.

“Finding pests is only one part of the equation.”

Bennett said the software will make it easier for growers to accurately assess their pest management systems and make changes designed to protect their crops in a timely manner.

“Finding pests is only one part of the equation,” said Bennett. “Once a grower has determined the extent of the problem, solutions can be developed to make sure the plants and vegetables are as healthy as they can possibly be.”

Bennett’s organization represents 200 members across the province which employ 14,000 workers in the greenhouse sector.

The ScaleUP Tech Accelerator is a four-month program during which the participants had access to one-on-one mentoring, cohort sessions and also access to provincial, national and global program networks. The program is led by Director of Venture Service, Adam Castle.

“It was very gratifying to be judged by some top-flight entrepreneurs and we’re very happy to be selected over some very worthy participants,” said Hendel.

The ScaleUP Tech Accelerator program is supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Libro Credit Union and the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs.

Splice Digital’s clients include Atari, Microsoft and Volkswagen.