One of the main trademarks of a Bahraini skyline is the visibility of the palm trees, in Arabic called “nakheel”, that are vital to the Kingdom’s agricultural environment. Bahrain is enriched with the abundance of palm trees at every corner and is filled with farms that are managed by Bahraini farmers who rely on the growth of plants and animals to provide for themselves and their families.
Unfortunately, there is a silent killer amongst the palm trees that is affecting farmers’ livelihood, causing great economic losses where farmers are unable to take reap of their benefits. Red Palm Weevil, an insect that attacks palm trees by laying 300 eggs that convert into larvae who feed into the internal fiber of the tree, leads to the total destruction of the tree, leaving no alarming signs of damage. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, $8 million is lost each year in the Gulf and MENA region through the removal of infested trees.
Thus, Nakheel was born as a solution to the growing disaster across the MENA region and the world. Founders Mohamed Khalil and Khaled Metwally had a direct connection to the issue as they saw first-hand the damage done to palm trees and how it can affect farmers on a day-to-day basis.
Nakheel uses the power of artificial intelligence and the IoT (Internet of Things) through a hardware device that is inserted in the palm tree. The device is connected to the internet and will notify farmers of any infestation through a mobile app. This gives farmers access to monitor all the palm trees at all times and receive detailed analytics and insights into the trees.
The low cost and low power devices have been trained by machine learning to identify infestation in the trees. As the device is low power, the battery life can last for years using low-power IoT chipsets. Users immediately receive a notification if there has been an infestation to treat them at an early stage before it’s too late.
The IoT devices are greatly needed because early detection techniques are not possible simply by detecting them ourselves. By the time farmers find out that the palm trees are infested, it is too late to bring them back to life. It takes a smart device to detect what could be an infestation before the trees are infected and there is no way to cure them.
The main challenge of Nakheel is to navigate through the cost of the sustainability of the devices. They have overcome the challenges of the high cost with high technology and worked hard to make the devices as low-cost as possible so that all can benefit from the device.
Nakheel participated in Brinc Batelco IoT’s accelerator program that provided them with a co-working space, event space, and the ability to participate in the IoT acceleration program and gain access to funding. Nakheel has benefited greatly from Brinc’s accelerator program, by gaining access to manufacturers across the globe, and has given them the opportunity to connect with startups, mentors, investors, and a network of experts.
Nakheel has recently expanded its outreach to countries outside of Bahrain such as Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Spain because of the need for these devices to improve economic transactions and farmers’ livelihood. Nakheel was able to expand to these countries because it has built a solid partnership with pest control companies and people working in the palm tree industries.
Describing Bahrain as a place to launch their startup, Mohamed said, “The Bahraini startup ecosystem is friendly, and starting a business in Bahrain is seamless. People here in the ecosystem have helped us and are always trying to help us as founders and startups.”
Mohamed’s advice to aspiring startups is to focus on the unique aspect of the idea, what problem it will solve, and to try to add value to the customer.
You can visit Nakheel’s website to learn more, or download their app from the App store.