What is Precision Agriculture? Here Are 10 Examples
The current world population of 7.7 billion people is expected to reach 8.6 billion by 2030, according to a United Nations report which also cites some other interesting facts. Around 2024, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China. Nigeria, currently the world’s 7th largest country, is projected to surpass that of the United States and become the third-largest country in the world shortly before 2050. Then there’s this little bit:
From 2017 to 2050, it is expected that half of the world’s population growth will be concentrated in just nine countries: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the United States of America, Uganda and Indonesia (ordered by their expected contribution to total growth).
China isn’t even in that list. That makes for a whole lot of people who need to eat, and there’s plenty of money to be made in feeding them. (Sorry folks, in a world dominated by capitalism, you can’t pull on heartstrings to solve big problems, you have to pull on purse strings.) One way we can solve this problem – and make loads of money while doing so – is through precision agriculture.
What is Precision Agriculture?
The simplest way to understand precision agriculture is to consider it as everything that helps ensure heightened accuracy in farming practices, particularly in terms of crop growth and raising livestock. It’s all about enabling today’s farmer with technologies that will help increase profits and reduce risks. We’re not just talking about information technology, but a broad range of other technologies including telematics, GPS assistance, robotics, automated hardware, agriculture drones, and variable rate technology.
We cannot just start planting more crops on new land to feed a bunch of hungry people in third-world countries. Land costs money. Instead, we need to make better use of our existing farmlands. To do that, farmers are looking towards technology to boost yields while helping to manage costs. Let’s take a look at 10 precision agriculture startups that were featured in the Finistere Ventures 2018 Agtech Investment Review report:
Here are the 10 precision agriculture startups that were featured on the above market map.
10 Examples of Precision Agriculture Startups
Founded in 2014, Cambridge startup CiBo Technologies has taken in $30.3 million in funding so far to develop software platform models that aim to simulate the unique conditions of every intricate agricultural ecosystem anywhere in the world. In other words, you can create “virtual fields” with real-world inputs, then receive suggestions as to how you might optimize your real fields. Doing so helps users boost their sustainability, reduce waste, improve time to market ratio, and utilize their land in the most cost-effective ways. Some of the services it offers are identifying and handling risks in the supply chain, reaching out to sources of high-quality raw materials, tracking crop requirements in real time, and simulating a crop’s responses to pests and other bugs. Maybe next, they can turn these virtual fields into some sort of new eSports game and get high school kids to do all the work for free.
Founded in 2007, Broomfield startup aWhere has taken in $19.6 million in funding and was featured in our article last year on 9 AgTech Startups Using AI to Grow Smarter. “We collect more than 7 billion data points across the planet each day to create unprecedented visibility and insight for the agricultural earth,” says the company, which uses this big data to provide reports that can be consumed by just about anyone who is interested in the state of farming.
And it’s not just about what has already happened. Their global network of more than 1.5 million virtual weather stations provides daily observed and hourly forecast information which comes in quite handy for your average farmer who may not have access to such sophisticated equipment. Their solution also extends up the supply chain as well. For example, aWhere utilizes a feature called Allocation Optimization that helps locate stores capable of selling more specific products based on demographics and such.
Founded in 2013, Michigan startup Farmobile has taken in $23.6 million in funding so far to create the Farmobile DataEngine, a powerful platform that ingests and standardizes farming data so that it can be shared and used to create insights. For example, the Farmobile PUC — a simple plug-in device — automatically streams agronomic and machine data from farm equipment via cellular:
And guess what? Once you start generating all that big data, you can then sell it to create an additional revenue stream. Since it began in 2016, hundreds of farmers have received more than $500k in revenue from Farmobile DataStore transactions.
Founded in 2015, San Francisco Bay Area startup Trace Genomics has taken in $19 million in funding so far to provide soil DNA sequencing services to farmers and agronomists. The company classifies and profiles the soil microbiome as well as interprets the soil health and risk indicators through combining DNA sequencing, AI-enabled diagnostic tools, and their exhaustive database on microbial species found in agricultural soils.
Through their analysis, Trace Genomics helps farmers increase their yields and lower costs. Since we first covered the startup in our article on 9 AgTech Startups Using AI to Grow Smarter, they’ve managed to raise an additional $13 million in funding which closed just last month.
Founded in 2012, Illinois startup + has taken in $5.5 million in funding so far to develop a cloud-based application that helps farmers fulfill the requirements set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Farm Service Agency (FSA). In particular, the company assists its users with data collection and accurate reporting methods to satisfy crop insurance obligations as required by the USDA. This system aims to simplify and streamline acreage reporting to benefit agriculture service providers, insurance agents, and of course farmers. Even farmers need to deal with the painful process of compliance – something that’s so dreadfully boring that we’re already tired of talking about it. Let’s move on.
Founded in 1999, Des Moines startup Premier Crop Systems has taken in $4.7 million in funding so far to offer data analysis software to farmers to help them make better agronomic choices based on agronomic data. Essentially, agronomic data is all the data specific to a farmer’s own fields. And your fields will change over time, so you need to analyze the data every year. They’ve put together “an opt-in network of elite growers” who all leverage the platform to increase yields and as more information is accumulated, everyone benefits. To join this elite club, you’ll need to know their secret handshake – or just drop them an email.
Founded in 2014, Sydney startup AgriWebb has taken in $14.4 million in funding so far to provide “full farm record keeping in your pocket, on the go and offline.” Most farmers spend about 5.5 minutes entering data into the AgriWebb platform, and the system does the rest, producing dashboards and reports that can track assets on one or more farms, things like feed, fertilizer, chemicals, livestock, farm equipment, and just about anything else you used to use that whiteboard in the barn to keep track of.
The tool is subscription-based, and they have a whole list of success stories you can peruse while you decide whether or not to bring your farm into the digital era.
Founded in 2009, Minneapolis startup Conservis has taken in $45.2 million in funding so far to build farm management software that “helps its users visualize their operations from the dirt up.” Going through their website collateral, we see largely the same sort of offerings that we’ve seen from all the other precision agriculture startups we’ve talked about so far. One major difference though is that Conservis has taken in more funding than any of them, while at the same time they’ve managed to stay true to their roots so to speak. “Since day one, our farm management software has been grounded in farmer input,” says the company. Yes, staying close to your customer – especially when said customer is likely to view technology with a great deal of suspicion – is a pretty good idea.
Founded in 2014, Australian startup The Yield has taken in $7.4 million in funding so far to “throw out the guesswork in farming.” With Bosch as one of their investors, it’s no surprise that their value proposition includes on-farm IoT sensors to guide farmers in making quicker and more informed decisions particularly on weather conditions and its effect on crops. The idea of putting sensors out in the field is not new, and we looked at a number of other startups doing the same thing in our article on 6 IoT in Agriculture Solutions from AgTech Startups. In addition to traditional farming, The Yield also offers a similar solution for aquaculture – which is why they were featured in our article this summer on The Benefits of Aquaculture with IoT Technology.
Founded in 2011, North Carolina startup Growers has taken in $6.7 million in funding so far to develop ” digital tools that leverage your farms’ own soil, planting, and harvest data to help you manage your farm better.” Remember how earlier we mentioned “variable rate planting” technology? That’s one of the things Growers does. They give you “planting prescriptions” to drive seed and yield optimization – in essence, telling you how many seeds you ought to plant at various points in your field based on lots of data inputs.
The practice isn’t entirely new, but the use of big data for decision making is where all optimizations can be had.
All the “sky is falling” types love to drone on about how “the man” is sticking it to everyone and how “broken” the system is. (These are usually people who are in the global “1%” themselves.) That’s all a crock of horse manure when you look at how things are playing out on the global stage. Extreme levels of poverty have simply plummeted, thanks in part to technology and capitalism.
You can try to convince people to eat less meat because farting cows cause global warming but frankly, few people care enough to change their lifestyles so that the planet can be saved – or heaven forbid – a bunch of “Africans” can have some food. The solution to improving the lifestyles of people around the world is to continue pursuing technological advancements like precision agriculture so that people continue to rise out of poverty as our population continues to grow. Over time, technologies like the ones we’ve just discussed will help every farmer become outstanding in his or her field. And that means more food for everyone.