SA agritech releases AI-enabled OmnioFarm to modernise African poultry farming

IBM announced today that SA agritech startup Omniolytics chose its products, IBM Watson running in the IBM Cloud,  to develop a suite of smart farming solutions for emerging and commercial poultry farmers.

The local poultry industry has seen several challenges recently, from quality and origins of feeds to high feed prices and the recurrence of avian influenza and diseases such as listeriosis and salmonellosis. The industry was valued at over R46 billion in 2019, making up over 16% of the total gross value of agricultural production in South Africa. In 2018, the avian flu outbreak alone cost the South African economy R954-million

The startup is using IBM technology to build a digital farming platform and help African poultry farmers

OmnioFarm, machine learning and the cloud

Omniolytics is addressing the need for commercial and emerging poultry farmers in this valuable industry to make informed, real-time decisions on potential threats and forecast dangers within the broiler house facility. Farmers are given early warnings on potential issues, making their processes more efficient and improving production standards.

Omniolytics developed a new approach that uses Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to collect data on the environmental conditions of production facilities and day-to-day management activities and processes of poultry to improve animal health, mitigate losses and assist producers in improving production efficiency to help address food security concerns. 

The agritech’s flagship solution, OmnioFarm uses IBM Watson and machine learning capabilities to identify and learn the typical behaviour of birds, thereby improving management practices. Farmers are then able to receive a complete picture of the well-being of their flocks delivered through IBM Cloud to identify processes and environmental deviations which could point to a potential problem. The system collects, processes, analyses, and visualises comprehensive insights collected from integrated wireless sensors, coupled with production records and activities across the production cycle.

DataViz, their foundation product, draws data from wireless sensors placed in the chicken broiler house to monitor the environmental conditions including air and water quality as well as lighting. These sensors will provide data via IoT platforms to the DataViz platform, digitally capturing facilities environmental conditions and production records while also scheduling activities, setting thresholds and notifications. The platform also captures live and historic trends in real-time and can also be accessed over a mobile device or computer.

Local Insights is their leading product. It embeds intelligence and helps manage end-to-end processes using data, analytics and machine learning, guiding farmers in adopting prescribed practices, understanding deviations, identifying potential threats and predicting performance against targets. Working with the IBM Cloud PaaS and machine learning APIs, the OmnioFarm platform will help this sector to ensure higher levels of animal health and efficiency, ensuring sustainable agricultural productivity. Omniolytics uses IBM Watson Studio for building and testing machine learning models.

“Local farmers have to be enabled to be globally competitive and the best way to do that is through technology. IBM Cloud and AI ensure we have a platform to help farmers across South Africa use precision agriculture to enhance the efficiency of their production. We’re introducing solutions to the market which help improve feed conversion ratios, mortality and growth rates and benchmarking practices across their production facilities. This will ensure accurate future predictions across the value chain and make poultry farming more sustainable,” says Omniolytics founder, Michael Samson.

The startup is also a beneficiary of IBMs Equity Equivalent Investment Programme (EEIP), which provides emerging enterprises with access to resources like IBM technology, technical support and business mentorship. IBM supports Omniolytics with a blend of financial and non-financial support towards the development of the OmnioFarm platform – helping Omniolytics provide advanced technology services that are commercially ready.

Craig Holmes, Technology Leader of IBM SA says, “Agriculture plays a crucial role in the success of our local economy and through the EEIP programme we’ve been able to support Omniolytics at a critical stage of their business growth. By improving access to IBM’s Cloud and AI technologies and increasing the adoption of a range of digital solutions as we incubate and support startups, we’ve set out to not only support local demand but also ensure our entrepreneurs become globally competitive. This is crucial in a post-Covid world and we’ll continue to provide innovative technology startups with advice, support and the best technologies available in the market,”.

 Working with IBM Services has given Omniolytics much needed support to refine its pitches, tweak its business model and perfect the backbone of this truly innovative solution.

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Featured image: Brett Jordan via Unsplash

Lauren Daniels, Editor


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