December 15, 2015

‘SHARK TANK’ SESSION Two Tech Firms Stand Out at Workshop

Two firms, both advancing crop information garnered from eye-in-the-sky technology, were the winners during the Western Growers Innovation Arena Workshop held during the Annual Meeting in San Diego in November.
The workshop session featured seven companies, most of which were start-ups, making a pitch to a panel of judges and the audience about what each believed was cutting-edge technology for use in the agricultural sector.  GeoVisual Analystics was the top choice of the judges, while TerrAvion received the most points in the audience participation aspect of the session.  These two companies each will receive a one-year membership to Western Growers as well as be featured in a future WG&S magazine story.
During the session, each of the seven companies was given seven minutes to make their pitch, followed by several minutes of questions from the judges and then the audience.  Following the individual presentations, the companies were scored on several different criteria including the utility and uniqueness of the product, the expertise of the firm’s leadership team, the viability of its market strategy and its competitive role in the marketplace.  The audience used a remote, hand-held clicking device to score each category on a 1-4 scale.
WG Sr. Vice President, Strategic Planning, Science & Technology Hank Giclas said all the companies did an excellent job and some very fascinating ideas were advanced.  Representatives from each company were available throughout the day to discuss their ideas with industry members and there was much interaction and interest.  In fact, both winners noted the quality presentations of all of the firms, and said there was much opportunity for success.
In general, most of the ideas involved providing producers with more information gathered through advanced technology such as aerial imaging, sensors, and ground level photography.  Using water more efficiently was also a theme running through many of the presentations.
GeoVisual Analytics was the first choice of the judges.  The company is offering its proprietary OnSight platform, which it calls “an early warning and monitoring system that helps improve crop yields and reduce losses by detecting problems in the field earlier and with more precision.  Crop scouts, PCAs, applicators, agronomists and growers can all be on the same page about what is happening in the field, along with a complete record of all collected data for thorough analysis and reporting.  OnSight combines aerial imagery, ground-based leaf-level photos, and expert observations into an easy-to-use, mobile dashboard to help growers see and diagnose field problems caused by pests, weeds, diseases, nutrient and irrigation issues or chemical drift.”
CEO Jeffrey Orrey told WG&S after the event  that “our technology can best help the fresh produce industry by helping growers put their labor and resources at the right places and at the right times, to optimize their operations.  With our OnSight platform, we help them know as early as possible when they have problems affecting their crops.”
With regard to pricing, Orrey said exact details are still being worked out.  “We have only set our pricing for our basic level agronomy system at this time, and we are in the process of defining our premium level offerings.  Hence our pricing will vary based on features offered.  Our pricing will be based on acreage covered, but during the WG Annual Meeting we offered a special for unlimited users and acreage.”
TerrAvion was the first choice of the audience, which featured an overflow crowd.  This firm offers real-time aerial imagery service for agriculture.  Every week during the growing season, the company delivers a birds-eye view of a farm in multiple wavelengths.  Using this imagery, a grower can use the photos to plan scouting, management activities, and interventions.
CEO Robert Morris said this low-cost service, which is $10-$30 per acre per annum, will give the grower information that will allow him or her to better allocate their management resources.  The imagery will pinpoint areas of concern and management personnel can be dispatched to investigate further.  Currently, TerrAvion is flying a 1970s-era Cessna to create the images.  Morris said if drones become a more economically viable option, that’s what the company will use.  He said the exact eye-in-the-sky device is irrelevant.  The key is the color-coded images it delivers.  He told the audience that the weekly photographs during the growing season allow growers to compare the progress of the fields on a real-time basis.
Following is a thumbnail sketch of the other five presenters during the session:
Agrialgo Inc /Crowd Scout: CrowdScout is the first real-time agricultural pest database.  The data comes from PCAs, scouts and growers when they capture a scouting report using our quick & easy mobile app.  The data is compiled, analyzed and relayed back to users so that they can see real-time pressure maps (heat maps) of the various pests on the various crops within their region.
Aquatrols: This technology offers agricultural producers unique water savings chemistries that enhance water and solute movement in soils — enabling improved crop performance, and better utilization of water.  Its agricultural surfactants improve the movement of water into the rootzone and increase crop productivity.
Farm Dog: This firm develops precision agriculture solutions for specialty crop farms.  Challenges on all farms continue to increase, yet most solutions addressing these challenges are built for large, commodity farms.  We take the most advanced solutions from the big guys and tailor them to fit everybody else.  Data from our wide array of affordable in-field sensors, measuring soil moisture and electrical conductivity, is fused with additional data streams such as satellite imagery in order to provide actionable insights to the farm.  Now any farm, no matter its size or crop, can manage irrigation, fertilization, and pest-control like the most advanced farms.
FarmX, Inc.: FarmX helps farmers save time and resources while increasing productivity.  FarmX’s FarmMap alerts growers about critical field available water content, plant stress indicators and environmental pest/disease pressure with FarmMap Sensors.  FarmMap Sensors push field data to the FarmMap cloud which provides real time analytics based on state-of-the-art machine learning processes.  The FarmMap cloud leverages multiple data sources to drive precise recommendations that drive productivity gains while reducing costs.
Ground Level Data, LLC: Growers frequently face wild swings in supply with little lead time due to infrequent and small data samples.  Ground Level Data has built proprietary software that is able to analyze every square foot of any produce crop for the factors the grower needs to make the right decisions.  Ground Level Data manages the image acquisition and processing, allowing the grower to focus on the metrics that drive his business using the most accurate information.