By Cory Lunde and Stephanie Metzinger
When Boaz Bachar and Iftach Birger founded Fieldin in Israel seven years ago, the millions of dollars they saved growers in pest management in such a short amount of time was impressive. The start-up company has now brought its smart sprayer to the California market to help Western Growers members and the specialty crop industry achieve the same results.
Western Grower & Shipper recently had the opportunity to discuss sensors and smart farm platforms with Fieldin, a resident of Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology. Bachar, Fieldin’s CEO and co-founder, shared his insights on how his startup’s technology can improve visibility in field operations such as harvesting, spraying and other mechanical cultural practices.
Western Grower & Shipper: What agricultural problem does your technology solve?
Boaz Bachar: In commercial agriculture, there is a lack of remote visibility in terms of field operations. This is especially true with particularly the specialty crop markets.
For example, we have growers who can have dozens of machines and rigs running at the same time, across multiple locations and spread out all over the state. They have to manage all of that equipment and all of the operators, while ensuring they’re being as efficient as possible. Growers need actionable data and they need it in real-time. That’s what Fieldin’s Smart Farm Control Center gives to our growers—the ability to manage all of their operations remotely, in real-time.
WG&S: Can you share more about what your technology offers?
Our mission is to help improve field operations with actionable insights. Fieldin’s sensors and smart farm platform allow growers to remotely manage and monitor field operations in real-time, giving managers actionable data that improves efficiencies during spraying, harvesting and other cultural practices.
WG&S: What are the core values of your company?
BB: Fieldin is a company started by growers for growers. Iftach Birger, my co-founder and Fieldin’s COO, was born and raised on a three-generation farm in Israel where he grew olives, almonds and wine grapes, and I married into a family of avocado growers. As growers, we understand the importance of developing a solution tailor-made for farmers.
Our goal has always been to work as close as possible with our growers and provide them value. We make it a priority to assist with whatever we can in the field to improve their bottom line. Whether we are making their harvest activities more efficient or ensuring that they’re applying chemicals in a manner that produces the most yield, we provide growers with a layer of data that optimizes operations and allows them to be as productive as possible all season long.
WG&S: Describe some of the early challenges and successes your start-up company has experienced.
BB: California agriculture is a lot more spread out and farms at a larger scale than the farms we first starting working with as a startup in Israel. Understanding this helped us realize how important it was to have boots on the ground. Today, we have a grower support team comprised of regional experts who work hand-in-hand with growers to train their staff. They also customize our reporting and alerts to meet the specific needs of each growers’ unique operation. Even in our current climate where many companies are cutting back their workforce, Fieldin continues to expand our grower support team.
In agtech, you’re only as successful as your support team. And if you don’t support your growers and help mold your platform to their needs, you’re not going to see large-scale adoption of your technology.
WG&S: What is your three-to five-year-plan? What does your company look like in 10 or 20 years?
There’s some uncertainty with the economy right now, but Fieldin recently closed a major round of funding and our company is as strong as it has ever been. We currently work in specialty crops in California, Israel and Australia, and are expanding rapidly. We’re coming off our best quarter in company history, and we have emerged as the market leader in terms of remote farm management platforms for specialty crop growers.
As far as in the United States, in the next three to five years, we see our smart farm services going beyond specialty crops in California and serving growers nationally. We will also be able to help out managers across the supply chain to improve transparency and operational efficiencies. We’re excited to see just how far we can take the company and provide additional value to the agriculture and food industry.
WG&S: Can you discuss examples of your technology in the field? Have you demonstrated any positive return on investment—or ROI?
BB: During the almond harvest season this past fall in California, Fieldin’s Smart Farm Control Center helped a grower identify inefficiencies that reduced labor and harvest operation costs by more than 30 percent. Because of that quick ROI (in just two weeks in this example), customers are relying on Fieldin data to make operational decisions, make their schedules and cut back on rising costs such as chemicals and labor.
WG&S: Tell us about your experience as a resident of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology.
I can’t stress how important it is to have boots on the ground and partner with growers to determine their needs rather than push your technology on them without user feedback. Joining the Center three years ago has given us a better understanding of the vegetable market in the Salinas region and has helped us interface with more growers and partners throughout the area.
It’s also inspiring to see all of the great technology coming out of the Center. We feel it’s important to give back and help the industry and the next wave of startups as often as possible. We thank the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology for all of the support and innovation they’ve harnessed over the years!
WG&S: Do you have anything else you would like to share with Western Growers members about your company?
BB: In a recent survey with our customers, every respondent said we had made a significant difference on their operation over the past year. That’s a pretty powerful statement because your technology needs to not only be good, but it needs to show a clear and fast ROI for growers to adopt it—especially at the size and scale of the companies we’ve been fortunate to work with. It’s exciting to hear we’re making a difference on farm operations here in our own backyard!
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