Smart agriculture in Ukraine: IT innovations for sustainable farming

Ukrainian start-ups are rushing to stake out the most profitable market niches in the agricultural sector, while venture investors foretell a bright future for agro-technologies, though showing no haste to invest in them. Meanwhile, some agro-corporations are already building their businesses on IT solutions of local developers. So, what is going on in the agtech market – a sector of agricultural technology, which is both new for Ukraine and rather controversial?

The agricultural sector has long remained on the periphery of IT entrepreneurs and venture investors’ attention due to certain skepticism as for agtech, which is traditionally associated with agro-companies owners’ conservatism and low market reach of basic information technologies. However, in 2014, the situation started changing owing to one-off successful projects and growing interest from innovative agro-companies.

It took only one year after the launch for Drone.ua to become the main airborne prospecting provider for Kernel, the largest agro-corporation in the country. Starting in 2015, it uses five quadrocopters and two drones, while forecasting the yield and receiving vegetation indexes and information on evaporation/nitrogen via an IT-solution of the Pixel Solutions start-up.

Created in 2014, Petiole, a “smart” tracker for plant growth, hit the top 20 hot start-ups in 2015 according to CNBC, an American business TV channel.

Although agtech still cannot compete with mainstream niches in a number of top projects, IT entrepreneurs’ interest in the agricultural sector has been growing from year to year. This is caused by an enormous share of the agro-industrial complex in Ukrainian economy. In 2014, the agro-industry became the largest source of the country’s foreign currency earnings. According to the State Fiscal Service, in 2015 Ukraine got $14.5 billion from the food and agricultural products export, which made up 38% of the total exports, while the metallurgical industry was left far behind with its share of 24.8%. Based on the Ministry of Agrarian Policy, in the 2014-2015 seasons Ukraine ranked third among the world’s leaders of grain exports, following the US and the EU.

Also, agtech is attractive for Ukrainian IT entrepreneurs since this is one of the world’s trends and agtech projects are in demand among large agrarian corporations, though sometimes this demand doesn’t get corresponding financial support. In general, local IT entrepreneurs don’t tend to overestimate the current Ukrainian market readiness, often considering the domestic agtech a testing ground.

Source: ukraine-economy.org

8 Striking IoT Smart Devices Made In Ukraine

Petcube and Branto aren’t the only Ukrainian gadgets. This article will tell you more about a window blind with solar batteries, a key to all lockers, a voice mask that allows to speak in private, lucid dreams generator and a lot of other amazing inventions waiting in the wings.

Cardiomo

Roman Bielkin invented a device capable of monitoring health state on real time basis. One needs to stick the patch with adhesive electrodes to a chest (under heart), and it will record the main biometric data – pulse, electrocardiogram, respiratory rate, and body temperature. The collected information is sent to Watsons Bluemix cloud service via user’s smartphone, and then the data goes to relatives’ phones as instant messages and weekly reports. The patch also has an alarm button to urgently inform about health issues. Cardiomo can also be used as a fitness tracker because the device provides its user with information about the quantity of steps, body position, sleep quality and activity data.

CloviTek

The startup founded by Vitaliy Makhidov helps to keep silence but at the same time makes watching videos comfortable. Their invention, CloviFi works in the following way: you need to connect it to Wi-Fi, download and install a smartphone app, choose a device from a menu (a TV in this case), connect headphones to a smartphone and listen to a film/TV program/ music via headphones. You won’t disturb home folks or colleagues. CloviFi plays a role of a sound transmitter sending sound from a TV to a smartphone, while the app allows to control it.

Ecoisme

This smart system monitors the level of energy consuming in a house and sends the data to smartphone via a mobile app. The gadget is integrated into electrical grid to collect the needed information about appliance. As a result, its user gets a detailed analysis on consumed electricity and recommendations how to save more. Also, Ecoisme can synchronize with other smart devices. Currently the device costs around $300.

Hushme

Hushme by ARTKB is a personal acoustic device that protects speech privacy in open space environment. Then headset resembles ordinary headphones but when you put it to your mouth nobody hears what you’re chatting about on the phone. It masks your voice with different sounds. A mobile app installed beforehand gives you an opportunity to choose among a range of options, be it sound of wind, ocean, rain, singing birds or even Darth Vader breath. Not only can you choose these ones but also upload your own sounds as well as control volume etc. Currently Hushme is being tested, so it isn’t on sale.

Hideez Key 2

In the beginning of 2017 Ukrainian company Hideez Technology presented the second version of its gadget called Hideez Key on CES exhibition. The device has 4 form-factors – a keychain fob, a wristband, a pendant and a clip. It deals with saving user’s passwords and can be used instead of a key to house and office locks. Hideez Key 2 is smaller, it has silicone caps and waterproof case on the contrary to its first version launched the previous year.

SolarGaps

Eugeniy Erik engineered a window blinds capable of accumulating solar power. The blinds slats contain modules converting sunlight into electricity. In this way SolarGapscan make any building independent from state power supply. They are able to generate up to 150 watt-hours for every square meter when mounted outside, and up to 100 watt-hours per square meter when mounted inside. This device is controlled by a mobile app, and it automatically сhanges its position to get maximum sunlight. The converter stores energy and provides it to appliances when needed. You can also store and accumulate excess electricity with it.

Luciding

Want to find out what lucid dream is? This device is made for you. It detects rapid eye movement sleep (REM), the state when a human is able to see lucid dreams, and sends a sleeping person corresponding stimulating signals. You can select new plots for dream travels and share the achievements with your friends due to a mobile app. Pretests haven’t proved the results promised by its developers but a person testing Luciding device at least succeeded to sleep well.

Technovator XE

Ukrainian team Technovator XE is creating a set of gadgets consisting of a charge base, several smartphone cases and an application allowing to control the whole kit. A basic power transmitter can charge up to four devices simultaneously within a radius of 5 metres, and the office one charges eight devices within a radius of up to 10 metres. Charging phones has never been easier: all you need is to connect a charge base to Wi-Fi, wear a case, start the app. The office kit is under development now but a home set is a working prototype synchronizing with iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus which will cost $200.

Source: qubit-labs.com

Ukrainian startup Grammarly attracts $110 mln of investment

IT company with Ukrainian roots Grammarly as part of the funding round conducted by venture investors General Catalyst jointly with IVP and Spark Capital has raised $110 million of investment, the company has said in a press release.

Jointly with the investors the company will work on speeding up the company’s growth, expansion of the team and business development.

Grammarly is an intellectual online service based on artificial intelligence. The software improves communications between people using not only grammar check, but providing for stylistic accuracy and increasing effectiveness of messages.

The product daily helps over 6.9 million of users in various spheres of life, making their communication in messengers, documents, e-mail and posts in social networks more clear, the company said.

Grammarly was founded by Kyiv residents in 2009: Maksym Lytvyn, Oleksiy Shevchenko and Dmytro Lider. The offices of the company are located in Kyiv, San Francisco and New York.

The team includes over 100 people.

Source: interfax.com.ua

Ukraine: A house in 3D built in less than eight hours

Ukrainian start-up Passivdom can build a house measuring a little over 35 square metres in around eight hours. This feat is primarily due to the use of a 3D printer, which prints out the roof, the floor and walls 20 centimetres thick in next to no time.

Three models of ready-made houses

Layer after layer, the printer – located in factories in Ukraine and in California, USA – churns out the parts of the house that are made of carbon fibre, polyurethane, resin, basalt fibre and fibre glass. Doors, windows, electrical goods, an alarm, solar panels and the plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning systems then have to be installed by a tradesman, Business Insider reports.

Passivdom offers three models of ready-made houses, but can also make personalised versions. The basic models are delivered without furniture, while the premium houses on the other hand are equipped with a few shelves and a fitted kitchen, as well as a sofa bed or actual bed.

The latter are indispensable, as the houses do not have bedrooms. They are made up of one room that is a little over 35 m2 with a small kitchen and bathroom, and large windows with a view.

Autonomous and mobile

Once built, the houses are perfectly autonomous and mobile. The electricity comes from a battery which stocks solar energy. Running water meanwhile comes from the ambient humidity and is then filtered (though the occupiers can fill the tank directly with their own water). The buildings also have an independent recycling system for waste water.

“We ought to be able to live out among nature, far from civilisation, while still enjoying the comforts of a traditional house,” says Maria Sorokina, head of marketing for Passivdom. “This technology enables us to live out in the woods, in the mountains or by the coast, far away from other people and infrastructure.” The smallest model of Passivdom house sells for around 32,000 euros.

The houses can be pre-ordered in Ukraine and in the USA, and the first models should be delivered before the end of the year.

Source: allianzworldwidepartners-bi.com

Made in Ukraine. TOP-10 of Ukrainian things that attracted international attention.

Grain, steel and sunflower oil have been recognized as the most famous goods of Ukrainian exports for centuries, but recently Ukraine’s reputation in the international arena has been growing thanks to outstanding achievements in information technology, high fashion, aviation, architecture and design.

1. Unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Kiev company Drone.ua produces drones, which are sold in Ukraine and Europe, and established a joint venture in Lithuania called “UAV.tools” to distribute its own technologies in 15 European countries. Soon the company will open its offices in the UK and Moldova and plans to enter the markets of South Africa and South America.

2. Planes.

The Ukrainian aviation industry has a long history of building huge aircraft, such as Mriya and AN, and also designing much smaller devices for a specific purpose. The airplanes of the company “Aeroprakt” are used by tour operators and rescuers in Singapore to monitor the coastline, British and Danish pilots with their help conduct training flights, and Australians extinguish fires. The company “Aeroprakt” has its own representative offices in 40 countries of the world.

3. Detectors of radiation.

After the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011, the global demand for devices for measuring radiation significantly increased. The Ukrainian company “Ecotest” took this opportunity to export radiation detectors of its own production to 70 countries of the world. “Ecotest” has also developed a new Svg-3 Radiacmeter for the German company Bruker, which will soon be used by European defense agencies and NATO.

4. Software.

Petcube” is a Ukrainian startup that allows you to play with your dog or cat when you are not at home. Using the program installed on your smartphone, you can see and communicate with your pets and even play with them using an installed laser. In 2014 Europas named Petcube the best hardware of the year.

5. IT products.

Ukrainian IT-development and consulting are also on the rise. Lviv and Kharkiv have their own IT clusters, and some Ukrainian companies have offices abroad. For example, Softserve has offices around the world and develops centers in Eastern Europe. The company has developed the Biolock system, which allows you to constantly monitor the status of the driver while driving.

6. Kayaks and boats.

The Ukrainian company Borika produces components of boats and kayaks and sells them mainly to Germany. Also the company cooperates with the Italian manufacturer of waterproof covers for cell phones. But boats from the company Brig even filmed in Hollywood blockbusters.

7. Modern architecture.

Ukrainian constructivism of the early twentieth century has its own response in Ukrainian modern architecture and design. For example, the Studio of Sergei Makhno performs projects in Portugal, Georgia, Germany, Monaco and France. In particular, the studio has already completed 360 projects in 16 countries and plans to open an office in London this year.

8. Fashion.

Fashion magazine Vogue has several times shown on its pages traditional Ukrainian costumes. The photo of the Princess of Denmark in embroidered by the Ukrainian company Vareniki was published, and Hollywood stars posed in dresses from Olena Dats, which has its own stores not only in Ukraine, but also in Paris, Los Angeles and Dubai.

9. Books.

The publishing sector of Ukraine demonstrates success due to the growing demand for Ukrainian literature. For example, the Ukrainian publishing house “Factor” printed 40 thousand German-language books for children in Austria.

10. Filters for water treatment.

Scientific potential is a key tool for Ecosoft, the Ukrainian filter manufacturer, to enter global markets.

Source: business-in-ukraine.online

UNIT.City: first Ukrainian innovation park

In recent years, Ukraine has been actively developing the innovation sphere, and Ukrainian start-ups and IT companies are known worldwide. According to IT companies, in 2016 the IT market amounted to $3 billion, which is 3.3% of Ukraine’s GDP in 2016. This area grows by 20,000 jobs annually. These growth rates can gradually match traditional Ukrainian industries like metallurgy and agriculture that will increase budget revenues. Ukraine has been discussing the launch of innovation parks for several years. One of the first has recently opened in Kyiv.

The first part of a large-scale project UNIT.City was presented on April 6 in Kyiv. It is expected to become the focus of the country’s creative economy.

The goal of the UNIT.City project is to combine educational, business, cultural, medical, sports and entertainment facilities in order to provide small and medium-sized innovation businesses with access to all infrastructures necessary for rapid development and expertise in one area.

Target audience

For the most part, companies that work in the areas of high technology, creative ideas and innovative business will be based here. That is, small Ukrainian and international food companies, R&D centers, start-ups and IT companies.

UNIT.City will help create up to 15,000 highly paid jobs, and provide talented youth with the opportunity of self-realizing in their country thus stopping “brain drain” in Ukraine.

Infrastructure

The total area of the future innovation park will be 25 hectares. The project resembles the famous campuses of Google, Apple and other Silicon Valley giants.

As of now, 4000 square meters have been used. Business campuses, sports complex and UNIT.Factory (free programming school), which is the main educational element of the park, are located there.

Business campuses will work in the format of club-offices (the company will use a small room, while meeting rooms and other spaces can be used by other companies).

Investors plan to build 31,000 square meters of business campuses, which will help create an entire innovation park. It is planned to invest 200 million dollars in the project within four years.

Sources: ain.ua and uacrisis.org (UCMC publishes an abridged version of AIN.UA article).

Photos: Olga Zakrevska

An end to overhearing annoying phone calls? This mask silences private conversations

Abizarre black mask that blocks the sound of its wearer’s voice so nearby listeners can’t hear could be the latest way to protect your private phone calls – as well as silencing loudmouth colleagues.

The Hushme, a device that fits around its user’s mouth and connects to a mobile for phone calls, claims to be able to mute a caller’s speech to anyone in their vicinity.

Although marketed as a product to keep conversations private, it could also be a godsend for anyone fed up of listening to their colleague on the next desk prattle on, or commuters sick of that one train passenger who doesn’t understand the meaning of quiet carriage.

The device is currently a prototype CREDIT: HUSHME

The Hushme, which was showcased at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, connects to a phone via Bluetooth and includes a pair of earbuds for listening. But the core of the technology is the microphone-enabled mask that snaps together in front of a user’s mouth.

As well as insulating voice, users can pick one of several recordings to drown out any remaining sound leakage. They include staples such as wind, ocean and rain, animal sounds like birds, monkeys and squirrels, but also the sound of Darth Vader’s heavy breathing or R2-D2’s bleeps.

A promotional video for the Hushme shows an office worker casually wearing the device around his neck like a set of over-ear headphones, although it is almost certain to draw some odd looks if used in public.

It can be worn round the neck when not in use CREDIT: HUSHME

It has been compared with Darth Vader and Batman villain Bane, but Hushme – a group of Ukrainian engineers based in the US – is hoping there will be enough demand from a crowdfunding campaign for a production run.

The device is set to retail for less than $200

Source

Senstone Smart and Intelligent pendant that converts your voice into text

Ukranian based programmers team came up with the idea to transform the user’s voice into notes. Senstone is a 21st century note taking device. The idea is basically a Kickstarter funded project of smart wearable device which makes it possible to convert user’s thoughts into text on the go.

The idea is named as Senstone which is compact pendant with 3CM diameter; it will record the voice of user and converts it into printed text created by the user. The device has 12 built in languages, including Ukranian and English. The device is is so small in size that it can be pinned on to your shirt, or you can wear it like a pendant or with the wrist strap.

The tiny wearable works by pressing the recording button on Senstone, flashing LED would show that recording is on, to stop the recording user need to press the button again which will stop recording. The crux of idea lies when the recording stops and AI tech takes over, then recordings will be synced to the mobile app and uploaded to cloud, converting the voice recording into the text form.

Senstone team has been developing the device for almost two years now and it is was there on Kickstarter for the funding. The project has raised the required fund of $300,000 since February. The founder of the app Markiyan Matsekh is further going to develop the device.

We can expect the release of this app later this year in September tentatively, according to project’s Kickstarter campaign page.

Source

Ukrainian IT industry employs 100,000 people

The Ukrainian IT industry now employs 99,940 people — up from 89,300 last year — according to the latest report of DOU.UA, an authoritative industry resource. The figure includes programmers, QA specialists, project managers and other IT-related professionals.

Almost half of these professionals live in Kyiv (Kiev). Others are inhabitants of such other major Ukrainian cities as Kharkiv (Kharkov), Lviv (Lvov), Dnipro (previoulsy known as Dnipropetrovsk), and Odessa.

With its Ukrainian offices in Kyiv, Dnipro, Lviv, Kharkiv and Vinnytsia, US-headquartered EPAM is the biggest employer in the industry. Among other industry leaders are such companies as SoftServe, Luxoft, GlobalLogic and Ciklum, if judging by the number of employees, says the report.

With monthly salaries reaching or exceeding $3,000 for certain specialties, remunerations in the Ukrainian IT sector are high or very high by local standards.

Women are becoming more interested in the field. This year the share of female specialists now reaches 15%, up two percentage points from last year.

Ukrainians have shown growing hunger for IT education, according to the study. In 2015, almost 30,000 Ukrainians attended IT courses.

Among the organizations supporting the educational effort is the BrainBasket Foundation, a Ukrainian NGO. Earlier this year George Soros offered his personal support to BrainBasket’s Technology Nation program through the International Renaissance Foundation.

Ukraine’s IT work force could double to some 200,000 by 2020, according to a recent report on the Ukrainian IT outsourcing and software devemopment by Ukraine Digital News and AVentures Capital.

[pdfviewer width=”800px” height=”500px” beta=”true/false”]https://www.cucc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ua_hightech.pdf[/pdfviewer]

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Ukrainian IT Industry: How to transform Ukraine’s brain drain into brain gain

Returning IT entrepreneurs can help Ukraine to upgrade from breadbasket to brainbasket

In February 1992 my former employer, Digital Equipment of Canada, moved me to Kyiv to develop its IT business from scratch. At the time, DEC was the No. 2 global IT company. Prior to my arrival, the transfer of sophisticated technology was prohibited due to strict Cold War export restrictions. Regulations were relaxed after the Soviet Union collapsed. Even then, in 1991, everyone talked about Ukraine’s IT potential. Twenty-five years have passed and Ukraine’s economy continues to struggle along, taking several steps forward then several steps back.

Despite this, Canada has remained a fervent supporter of Ukraine’s economic, social, and political transformation. Support is partially based on Canada’s strong Ukrainian diaspora, but also because Canada can serve as a good example. With both countries strong in agriculture and technology while bordering a big, influential neighbour, Canada and Ukraine have shared attributes of multiculturalism, diversity, and technology innovation.

As a show of this support, the Canada Ukraine Business Forum took place in June in Toronto. The objective was to increase trade and investment between Canada and Ukraine. Three weeks after the forum, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in Kyiv. While in Ukraine, he and Canadian Minister of Trade and Development Chrystia Freeland signed the Canada Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA), eliminating about 98% of all duties. Promising sectors for trade include aerospace, transportation, energy, agro-tech, defence and security, and information technology. All have the potential to create win-win opportunities for both countries.

As a good example, one of Canada’s largest retailers has contracted more than 700 Ukrainian software engineers to help them develop leading edge IT solutions to maintain an advantage against global technology giants such as Amazon and Ebay. CUFTA will make more opportunities like this possible.

Ukraine’s bountiful brainbasket

One of the most successful panels at the Toronto business forum was ‘The New Ukraine – an Emerging Technology Nation’, where the chasm between Canada and Ukraine’s high-tech ecosystems was evident. The key to Ukraine’s growth in ICT is investment. The problem is not a lack of private capital availability. According to the 2016 Preqin Global Private Equity & Venture Capital Report, global uncalled capital commitments, known as dry powder, stands at a record USD 4.2 trillion.

According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Ukraine is ranked the fourth most educated nation in the world, with over 99.7% literacy. Ukraine produces more than 130,000 engineers and about 16,000 IT graduates each year, making it the No. 1 engineering force in CEE. Ukraine is in the top three by number of certified IT professionals globally. Indeed, Ukraine is no longer just the breadbasket of Europe, it is evolving into a brainbasket for global IT.

Ukrainian IT sector can learn from Canada

Despite its strengths, Ukraine lags significantly in attracting venture capital investment. By way of comparison, Canada attracted USD 2.3 billion in venture capital in 2015, while Ukraine attracted just USD 132 million. Nevertheless, IT outsourcing in Ukraine has grown twenty-fold over the last decade, reaching USD 2.5 billion in 2015. The industry is expected to grow to USD 21 billion by 2021.

A recent article in Tech Crunch states that Toronto can become one of the biggest hubs for technology start-ups in North America over the next five-ten years. Both the Canadian federal and Ontario’s provincial governments offer strong support. Federal tax incentives to conduct R&D and economic development agencies such as FedDev Ontario help create, retain and grow businesses while cultivating partnerships. Furthermore, International Science and Tech Partnerships are supported so small companies with R&D programmes can receive financial support to partner with foreign researchers. Ukraine happens to have a good supply.

If we want the brainbasket to grow by harvesting its technology potential, similar programmes should be implemented by the Ukrainian government. Best practices from Canada and other innovation centres such as Israel and Silicon Valley should be adapted to the Ukrainian reality. There is no way to recreate a Silicon Valley in Ukraine and that temptation should be resisted. Building a technopark (i.e. Skolkovo, Bionic Hills etc.) as a real estate project is not the way to go. The government should help create the conditions for entrepreneurship and innovation to thrive, or at least get out of the way.

Ukraine needs return of émigré entrepreneurs

Since independence, Ukraine has suffered from a shrinking population and brain drain. Thousands of young people have left the country – many from the tech sector. They have built careers in technology centres such as Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv and Toronto. They have gained valuable education and skills that are very much needed in Ukraine. A colleague, Stas Khirman, himself born in Kyiv, is managing partner at TEC Ventures and Co-Chair of the influential Silicon Valley Open Door Conference. He has researched that a minimum of 5% of Palo Alto residents, the heart of Silicon Valley, are Russian-speaking – mainly immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Accomplished entrepreneurs like Jan Koum and Max Levchin, both born in Ukraine, have achieved their success outside Ukraine. They would make wonderful mentors. The tipping point will come when those who left return to Ukraine to build their careers and companies, as many entrepreneurs from India and China have done after achieving success abroad.

Despite challenges, the Ukrainian tech sector has shown that it will continue to grow and prosper. If coupled with a well-defined strategy and best practices from global innovation hubs, and combined with stubborn Ukrainian creativity, the tech sector can play a more important role in Ukraine’s transformation than many realize. Ukraine has the ingredients to be the world’s breadbasket and brainbasket. It just needs the right recipe. Every Canadian knows this.

About the author

Bohdan Kupych (bohdan.kupych@kmcore.com) is Vice President of KM Core and Managing Partner of Borsch Ventures, a technology holding company based in Kyiv with a portfolio of operating and early stage technology companies

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