Ombrea offers modular photovoltaic systems for use on crops (“agrivoltaics”), enabling better adaptation to climatic hazards, which are set to worsen under the impact of climate change.
With climate disruption, extreme events such as drought and hail are set to become increasingly frequent. This was recently illustrated by the prolonged lack of rainfall on many farms in March and April 2020.
The Ombrea solution
Ombrea proposes a much more interesting solution: intelligent automated panels. Thanks to an army of sensors and increasingly sophisticated know-how, the machine would provide the plants with the shade they need, making them more resistant to the vagaries of the weather. As an option, the panels generate electricity using photovoltaic cells.
In this way, Ombrea improves plant yields and reduces the need for irrigation. According to the startup, their solution has increased yields by 63% for tomato plants and by 50% for a strawberry crop, and reduced water requirements by -43% for tomatoes. However, I haven’t found any scientific studies on the subject (this must vary, for example, according to the type of climatic event endured and its intensity).
One of the core features of the solution would be its artificial intelligence and its ability to process data to create an optimal microclimate for crops. This is a project in which R&D is central. The solution is mainly envisaged for high value-added crops, such as viticulture.
There are significant similarities with Sun’Agri, which seems to offer a very similar solution, but with panels that pivot rather than slide, and with a greater focus on electricity production.
It fits in with our Green Agritech category, and more specifically with precision agriculture.
Ombréa: identity and fundraising
Ombréa was founded in 2016 by Julie Davico-Pahin (CEO) and her father Christian Davico (President). It is located in Aix-en-provence (Provence, Alpes-côte d’Azur, France).
It raised 7 million euros in September 2021 from investors including Mirova (a management company affiliated to Natixis Investment Managers) and CMA CGM Ventures (the investment arm of the transport group of the same name). To this was added 3 million euros of “debt” (= borrowing?) from banks.
I still have a number of questions that prevent me from seeing just how interesting the scheme is:
- What is the expected ROI (Return on Investment) for operators?
- What damage caused by extreme weather events could have been prevented by using Ombrea? For vineyards? This would give a good idea of the size of the market.
- Vineyards seem to be a natural customer for them: they’re fragile crops, with high added value and a huge market in France. What’s stopping their solution from being implemented in all the major French vineyards?
- Can anti-hail nets be installed automatically? If not, what is the added value compared with conventional anti-hail nets?
- What is the carbon impact of the infrastructure?
As always, if you have any criticisms (or feedbacks), I’d love to see them in comments or by mail 🙂
- Start-up Ombrea launches smart shades to respond to climatic hazards, Cnews 2018
- Ombrea: synergies between agriculture and photovoltaics are possible… in certain scenarios; Pv Magazine 2019
- Ombrea’s method for managing growth; La Tribune PACA 2019
- Agrinove in Nérac: Ombrea expands, La Dépèche 2019