AgZen’s AI Sprayer Cuts Farm Chemical Use by 50%

In the world of agriculture, the precise application of chemicals is a critical factor in both environmental conservation and farm economics. Dr. Vishnu Jayaprakash, co-founder and CEO of AgZen, a company at the forefront of agricultural technology, is acutely aware of the challenges farmers face when it comes to spraying their crops. The issue at hand is not just about where the chemicals are sprayed, but also about how much is applied and how effectively they adhere to the plants.

**Revolutionizing Precision Agriculture**

AgZen, a Boston-based spinout from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is leading the charge in revolutionizing the way farmers spray their crops. The company’s first commercial product, RealCoverage, is a game-changer for the industry. This innovative system comprises a unit equipped with cameras that attach to a sprayer and connect to a tablet inside the tractor’s cab. It provides real-time feedback to the operator on the behavior of the droplets as they hit the plants. The AI-driven system then gives recommendations on how to optimize spraying parameters such as nozzle selection, pressure, boom height, and droplet size. It even advises on driving speed and the optimal gallons of spray per acre for a specific chemical mix, crop, and location. According to Jayaprakash, this technology can lead to a staggering 30-50% reduction in chemical inputs.

The implications of such a system are vast. Not only does it have the potential to significantly reduce the environmental impact of farming by cutting down on runoff and soil buildup, but it also helps farmers save money by using chemicals more efficiently. This is especially pertinent given the rising costs of crop inputs.

**Innovation Born from Personal Experience and Research**

Dr. Jayaprakash’s journey into optimizing spray technology began in his childhood on his family’s farm near Chennai, India. The experience left an indelible mark, setting him on a path that would eventually lead him to MIT, where he met Professor Kripa Varanasi. Together, they embarked on research that would culminate in the founding of AgZen. Their work focused on understanding droplet dynamics on leaves and developing methods to enhance the sticking power of droplets without introducing new chemicals into the mix.

**A Lightbulb Moment**

The genesis of AgZen was rooted in a “lightbulb moment” that occurred when growers challenged the team with a fundamental question: what is the current coverage when spraying? Realizing that farmers had no way of knowing how effective their spraying was, AgZen developed RealCoverage. The system’s ability to measure and adjust in real time is a significant innovation. For instance, it can adapt to changing conditions such as temperature and humidity and vary application rates based on plant density variations within a field. This level of precision was previously unattainable and represents a significant leap forward in agricultural technology.

**Looking Ahead: EnhanceCoverage**

AgZen is not stopping with RealCoverage. The company is set to release its second product, EnhanceCoverage, next year. This new nozzle technology cloaks droplets with adjuvants, increasing the likelihood that they will adhere to plants. Traditional methods involve mixing adjuvants in the spray tank, but many droplets bounce off before they can be absorbed by the plants. By cloaking the droplets, AgZen’s technology ensures that the plants are first exposed to the pure adjuvant, greatly improving the chances of the droplets sticking. Early field data suggests that EnhanceCoverage could double the improvements already achieved by RealCoverage.

The advancements AgZen is bringing to the agricultural sector could transform the way farmers approach crop spraying. With the potential to significantly reduce chemical usage while maintaining or even improving crop protection, AgZen’s technologies represent a win-win for both the environment and the farmers’ bottom line. As the agricultural industry continues to seek sustainable and cost-effective solutions, AgZen’s innovations are a beacon of progress, potentially setting new standards for precision agriculture.

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