Swiss Gamaya’s Hyperspectral Imaging Technology Allows For Detailed Diagnostics In AgriTech

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Light-weight, data efficient, 40-band hyperspectral cameras give access to a wealth of crop information that significantly enhances farmer's operations. CEO & founder Yosef Akhtman on the technology behind Gamaya:

How would you describe Gamaya in a few words?

Gamaya is a crop analytics company that empowers farmers with in-depth information about their land and crops. We utilize a unique combination of drones, satellites and AI to help farmers significantly improve the efficiency, productivity, and sustainability of their businesses.

Swiss Gamaya's Hyperspectral Imaging Technology Allows For Detailed Diagnostics In AgriTech

Yosef Akhtman, CEO & founder of Gamaya

What inspired you to create the startup? How did it all start?

My scientific career has encompassed a number of distinctive subjects including information theory, robotics, and remote sensing. I was extremely lucky to see all of those skills come together in my last academic project – the Trans-Eurasian Expedition Leman-Baikal. The project was so profoundly important to me that I could not possibly imagine just moving on when it was completed. The only way to realize the tremendous potential of the results of our research was to bite the bullet and turn it into a commercial venture.

Your solutions are based on the big data approach – how do you make sense of the data & how can farmers benefit?

We develop custom analytical services to address specific, carefully formulated efficiency bottlenecks of large industrial growers. Our mission is to help farmers to use less water, fertilizers, chemicals, and fuel; improve the quality and quantity of their production; as well as reduce risks associated with drought, extreme weather conditions, and climate change.

You mentioned you also use drones and artificial intelligence to help grow crops. In what ways do you see your technology developing further? What’s your vision?

One of the main efficiency bottlenecks of the existing industrial farming practices is constituted by our very limited ability to gather data, monitor and study complex ecosystems on a large scale. We try to simplify, sterilize and minimise the interaction of our crops with other plants, bugs, and microbiota because we don’t want and don’t know how to deal with complexity. Our technology is among the most effective known methods to obtain the necessary knowledge and thus facilitate significant progress towards smarter, sustainable farming that can one day become the solution in our relationship with our environment instead of being one of its major problems.

We employ AI methods to classify large datasets of drone and satellite imaging data and detect patterns that can be correlated with the particular agronomical issues. A good example of such application is the mapping and classification of weeds in crop fields. In many cases, the undesirable plants can look very similar to the actual crop, particularly in the RGB color space perceived by the human eye. The difference between a weed and a crop plant would manifest itself in a subtle combination of spectral and morphological characteristics. This makes it a perfect candidate for an AI-driven solution.

In the AgriTech sector, competition is growing. What makes Gamaya stand out of the crowd? What is the key differentiator?

An important and unique area of expertise of Gamaya is constituted by our proprietary hyperspectral imaging technology that allows for a detailed diagnostics of the physiological conditions of plants in a way that is far superior to any other sensing method known to science. Plant’s interactions with the sunlight form a crucial part of their metabolism resulting in the intimate relationship between their physiology and reflective properties. To put it simply, hyperspectral imagery constitutes the richest source of environmental data that is currently available.

We’ve recently featured you in our Breakdown on Startup Driven Innovation in agriculture. Which other cutting-edge technologies will the sector experience in the coming years?

One of the most interesting up-and-coming AgriTech or AgTech technologies, in my view, is in the field of symbiotic agriculture, where the crop seeds are treated with naturally occurring bacterial, or fungal cultures to improve crop resilience and performance. This is a major departure from the monocultures and synthetic chemistry-based crop protection solutions routinely exploited by the large-scale farming industry, and a significant step towards environmental sustainability.

What is the biggest challenge that the company has faced?

We face a multitude of technological, financial and organizational challenges every single day to the extent that it is impossible for me to single out the one biggest ever. Finding ways to overcome challenges is my full-time job. I am coming from a scientific, technological background and consider technological challenges as the fun part of the job. Fundraising and the operational complexity can be a source of significant stress, but also a tremendous opportunity to acquire new and valuable skills.

What’s next for Gamaya?

We want to become a key player and a knowledge hub in the emerging smart agriculture industry. Today we have unique technology and we are well positioned to build the analytical platform that empowers farmers with an unprecedented level of understanding and awareness of their land and crops. Of course, this is a very rapidly developing market with some very strong organizations starting to take interest in what we are doing. So, the challenge of building the necessary momentum, while staying true to our vision will be enormous.

If there is one thing you could wish for in improving the European startup ecosystem – what would it be?

We feel extremely lucky to have the extensive support of the Swiss startup ecosystem, so there is little to complain about. The European investors often times lack the experience and the financial stamina of the North-American VCs. Perhaps a few more really large, inspirational “moonshot” projects and success stories would inspire some of the European investors to take a little more risk and a little longer-term, bolder view of their investment decisions.

What’s one piece of advice you can give to fellow founders for their startup?

Enjoy the ride! This is a long and trying journey and the joy of creating something new and meaningful in the world can be a major source of energy. It is important to have a big and bold idea, as well as a strong conviction in the significance of your solution to secure the support of colleagues, clients, and investors. It may sound like a cliche, but it appears to be true that the only path to success lies through a lot of hard, exhausting work interspersed with a few happy moments of random luck.



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