By Walt Duflock, WG Vice President of Innovation
Western Growers has rolled out the first-ever HarvestWiki—a Wikipedia-like platform to help farmers share information about growing operations, allowing agtech startups to have as much crop-specific information as possible when they design and develop agtech solutions for growers. HarvestWiki is focused on specialty crops—so if you’re a grower or a startup focused on fruits, vegetables or nuts, this is the place to be. HarvestWiki can be found at https://harvest.wginnovation.com/.
Like Wikipedia, the HarvestWiki is a community knowledge platform based on collaboration. The goal is to have a single page for each specialty crop that has all the key information startups need to know so they can innovate better—what are the farming practices, the economics and the edge cases that startups need to know about as they build solutions. Each page will be built by the growers for their specific crop types.
Information from the following three audiences will be crucial to populating HarvestWiki:
1. Growers, Orchard Operators and Service Providers to Growers/Operators: The subject matter experts that can help provide the crop details that startups need for a full understanding of what they need to build and a rough range of what it needs to cost.
2. Agtech Startups: Start-up companies that are building or planning to build harvest mechanization or automation solutions should use HarvestWiki to understand their product requirements. This includes startups doing weeding or harvest assist, both of which help growers/operators manage their portfolio of labor more effectively.
3. Investors, Mentors and Advisors: Those working with harvest mechanization and automation startups should send those startups to the HarvestWiki page so they can review all of the information on that page and be prepared for their first or next grower conversation.
The Concept Behind HarvestWiki
The HarvestWiki came out of the collective efforts of everyone involved with the Global Harvest Automation Initiative’s Tech Stack development. Western Growers collaborated with Ines Hanrahan and the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, Washington apple growers, equipment manufacturers and agricultural system architects to help startups build better mechanization and automation solutions. During months of discussions with multiple growers and startups across several crop types, it became apparent that many harvest robotic startups were struggling to fundraise and get to scale for a variety of reasons. But from those discussions, one thing became very clear. Too often, the match between the startup’s economics and the grower economics were miles apart, and the distance caused investor concerns about further investment and caused growers to have significant concerns about the long-term viability of the startups and their solutions.
If the growers and investors cannot see a clear path for the solution that leads to economics that works for the grower, they are hard to convert to customers and the lack of revenue makes it equally hard for investors to write checks. The group came to the conclusion that the information the startups needed was available but that growers needed an easy way to get it to the startups without having to have multiple conversations with every startup. HarvestWiki was the perfect solution—a self-service tool for startups to find all the information they need before heading too far down the design path and actually developing robot prototypes.
Once the solution became clear, we got to work on getting HarvestWiki up and running.
The premise of HarvestWiki is to give startups the information about what they need to build and the underlying economics which are equally or more important. HarvestWiki can influence product roadmaps and priorities and help accelerate development efforts by setting the destination and letting startups reverse engineer into a product that meets the needs that reach that destination. By offering the information in real-time to any startup that wants it, it helps make sure the primary challenge for startups is finding HarvestWiki, not potentially building a robot that will not meet the customer’s needs.
WG encourages member growers to add content for the crop types they grow. WG also asks that startups review the right pages for the crops that they are developing solutions.
For guidance on developing the right information for each crop type, feel free to contact me at [email protected] or (949) 345-5997.