Support from CAAIN kick-starts Saskatoon-based grain grading app’s development

An app that speeds up the grain grading process for farmers is gaining momentum, in large part to support from the Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN).

It’s called GeoAI and with a snap of a photo it can determine the quality of your grain. The only downside, for now, is it can only grade wheat samples.

A screenshot of the GeoAI app showing grade of grain samples | Source: CAAIN

CEO and Co-founder of Super GeoAI Technology Inc Weiping Zeng says determining the grade of grain samples is a moment where “farmers find out what all their hard work is going to bring them.” 

“It occurred to me there had to be a way to remove the subjectivity from this process, which would reassure buyer and seller. I imagined a technology that would make grading a purely objective, AI-driven exercise that would increase productivity and decrease workload.” Zeng noted in a news release. 

Phase 1 was developing a working prototype, and when that was a success they proceeded to phase 2, which Zeng says will focus on improving accuracy and expand its use to other crops such as canola, lentils, and peas. Phase 2 will also focus on commercial applications for wheat producers and grain buyers that can detect diseases such as Ergot, Fusarium Damaged Kernels, Hard Vitreous Kernels, Sprout, and Sawfly, as well as frost and heat stress damage.

Several hundred farmers in Canada and the U.S. downloaded free versions of the app, for Android and iOS phones, to test it out. Zeng says the app’s accuracy is a work in progress.

Phases 2 and 3 overlap each other as they focus on refining the technology. Zeng says they will also be working alongside Saskatoon-based VeriGrain during the second phase to integrate their respective technologies. 

CAAIN has contributed over $711,586 towards the project’s second phase and Zeng is grateful for the support assistance because at one point the project was at a crossroads.

“SGA is an Agtech startup that faced a pivotal moment in late 2021.” He continued. “As its founder, I was torn between advancing the venture and seeking stable employment. CAAIN’s support not only bolstered my decision to press forward as an entrepreneur. It also catalysed our remarkable growth, expanding our team to 28 full-time employees within two years and setting a target of 40 by early 2025. Our workforce, predominantly composed of recent graduates and new immigrants, includes 15 individuals who were unemployed before joining SGA, many of whom have now become pivotal to our operations.”

“We typically fund our projects once,” explained Darrell Petras, CAAIN’s CEO. “Occasionally we make an exception, as we did in this instance. When GeoAI submitted their initial project proposal in 2021, they laid out a roadmap alerting us to their need to break the project into three phases. They have done as promised, and delivered tremendous results in advancing this important technology. Despite the grain sector’s massive contribution to Canada’s economy, grading has remained essentially unchanged for 100 years. Dr. Zeng and his team are providing much needed modernisation.”

The goal is to “create and market a scaled-up, all-in-one GeoAI-driven cloud platform that automates numerous agricultural tasks, with a focus on grain grading.” 

Zeng says another version of the app will be launched sometime this summer.

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