Lazar, your remote watering system took part in a global competition for innovations in agricultural production and technology that was held in South Africa in March of this year. Tell us more about the competition itself, and what were the preparations like for such a big and important event?
Our Smart Watering team represented Serbia in the world finals of the Future Agro Challenge 2017, a competition which is a central event at the GEC (Global Entepreneurship Congress). The GEC is a global event that assembles entrepreneuers from all over the world. This year the FAC took place in Johannesburg from 12-15 March. Preparations consisted of practicing our pitch, creating presentations, and creating promo material.
The whole idea of making a smart watering system came into focus because you needed it for your own private purposes, for the property where you grow hazelnuts. Is the system working there with no issues, and what happens when a problem occurs at a distance of 150km?
Yes, the whole system was built because I had a problem irrigating my distant hazelnut farm. Now everything is working fine, before installing and setting up the system on the farm I tested it for three months, because there can be no tolerance for glitches and problems when a system is controlling such an important process. Problems and bugs were resolved during the development and testing period, so once the system was in production there would be no errors and problems.
Your Smart Watering system works by using a remote controlling program that is activated via text messages. Is it true that you did not develop it on your own, but with the help of a friend who is a programmer, and then only after two years of working on the whole concept. Can you tell us more about how it actually works?
A very important factor in developing any idea is putting together a good team of people. I teamed up with a friend from college, and that made the whole development much easier. The system is monitored and controlled via SMS. It’s like sending an SMS to a friend to open a pipe and the irrigation starts. Instead of a friend you send a coded text message to Smart Watering, and the system does the rest.
Who is the prototypical buyer for this system?
Our System can help people who do other things besides farming and who don’t live on their farms. It’s there to save them time and take care of irrigation without their hands-on attention. It’s made for small farmers, mainly.
You plan to put this system on Google Play and App Store, very soon. What other projects are you working on at your company?
We are developing an iOS and Android app that will introduce new options like scheduling, weather forecast considerations, and history.
Manufacturers from China have already offered to cooperate with you. Has any other company from abroad done the same, and are they offering to form a partnership or to buy a license?
Since the whole story has triggered massive media attention, people from all over Serbia and the region are contacting us, not only to purchase the system, but also for distribution in their local markets.
If you win the big competition at the Future Agro Challenge in South Africa, how would that help your future business prospects?
The competition’s essential premise isn’t about winning and getting a prize, it’s about networking and exchanging ideas and concepts. Even the organizers told us that the first day. Good ideas will find their way and get funding. Competition is there to give you credit for all you’ve done and for marketing purposes.
What do you think it takes for a product like this to stand out in the global market?
I don’t think that our system is applicable globally, maybe only in countries similar to Serbia where agriculture is based on small farmers.
What part of electrical engineering do you wish to explore more, do you have any unfulfilled ideas you would like to work on?
Of course, I think that one keeps on learning as long as one breathes. I would like to learn more about electric vehicles and smart grids. I am at the beginning of my career, and I still have so much to learn. Soon, I will definitely choose one specific area and dedicate time to exploring it.