July 14, 2021

HUMMINGBIRD TECHNOLOGIES: Going Above and Beyond to Increase Yield

Drones and satellites are the technology. They are not the solution.

“There has to be the interpretation of the data gathered from drones or satellites,” said Jack Williams-Ellis, head of California & Mexico at Hummingbird Technologies. “Then, that data needs to be presented as either analytics or as a service. That’s where Hummingbird Technologies fits in. We go that extra mile to make it a turnkey solution.”

Hummingbird Technologies is an imagery analytics business that uses remote sensing (image data from satellites, planes and drones) to help food and agricultural operations make real-time decisions. The startup has tailored its solutions to support specialty crop growers in two ways:

1. Precision Agronomy: Hummingbird uses image data to predict yields for growers, while also helping them optimize their inputs to produce better yields.

a.  Predicting Yield: Using high-resolution pixel-by-pixel image data, Hummingbird can determine the counts, sizes and grades of every plant in a field.

b.  Optimizing Inputs: From the image data, Hummingbird guides growers on how much fertilizer to use and where. For example, the Hummingbird platform will signal to apply more fertilizer to lower areas of plant growth and less fertilizer to higher areas of growth; this increases uniformity in the field to increase the number of heads/pounds harvested per acre.

2. Supply Chain Analytics: Through its global presence, Hummingbird offers ag and food businesses granular supply chain visibility; this affords customers the ability to make precise and more effective decisions in real-time, resulting in more efficient operations.

The startup launched five years ago in a small basement in London, England, with a team of three and has now grown into a company comprised of 60 data scientists, software engineers, agronomists and product/business specialists that span across the globe. The startup successfully developed an algorithm that scales across every grower independent of their location but specific to their respective variety of crops. With its unique algorithms, the company has now expanded to Latin America and North America.

“One of the key differences between Hummingbird and other imagery analytics companies is that we build all of our algorithms from the ground up with growers, plant pathologists and agronomists,” said Williams-Ellis. “We see if there’s an opportunity to drive value for a grower, and if there is, we then build an algorithm around that specific variety. This allows us to dig deep and provide detailed data on a few crops versus surface-level data on 50 to 100 crops.”

One of the crops the startup is now focusing on is lettuce. In January 2021, Hummingbird finalized its North American expansion by putting down roots in Salinas, California—more specifically, at the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology.

“The team at the WG Center has been a great facilitator of introductions to leaders in the fresh produce sector and carefully helps startups navigate their path. Whether they are looking for partners for R&D or are in the trial phase and ready to scale, the WG team always seems to be able to fit the right startup with the right grower. That’s an amazing attribute of the innovation center.”

Since joining the WGCIT, Hummingbird Technologies has been connected to numerous WG members and industry leaders throughout California and Arizona. In fact, one such introduction has resulted in a fruitful partnership with Church Brothers Farms. The case study of this success story is featured below.