Agriculture often doesn’t get treated with the reverence it deserves. It’s stuck with an image problem from the days when the industry represented the simple life. Not anymore. Agriculture is one of the leading technological sectors on the planet. It’s at the forefront of both biotech and computer technology.
And it’s the combination of the two that makes the industry, like medicine, particularly interesting. As a result, a bunch of new startups has entered the fray. They’re hoping to change the way we produce food in fundamental ways. Here are some of the startups you should have your eye on in 2016.
AgEagle is a perfect example of what can happen when the right technologies are brought together in unison. AgEagle is a company that has been built on top of the current explosion in UAV and drone technologies.
Its founder, Bret Chilcott, was obsessed with model airplanes as a child. And as an adult, he spent most of his money on them. But now he’s decided to turn his passion into a business.
AgEagle started by supplying drone equipment to the US military. But after the recession, they noticed an opportunity to make some money from the farming sector.
It turned out that farmers didn’t want to inspect their livestock and crops in person. They wanted some system that would just do the hard work for them. AgEagle saw an opportunity they couldn’t ignore. Thanks to smaller and better cameras, it was now possible for cameras to be fitted on drones. And these cameras could then communicate back to the farmer’s tablet or phone. This could potentially save time and money.
Now the company is investing in making their product even better. Right now their target market is the windy mid-Western US. So they’re looking into making their fiberglass vehicles tougher. Farmers have also asked for systems that can track individual animals. As a result, they’re working on cameras that can track individual livestock.
Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed the rise of autonomous vehicles. New autonomous tech hits the car market every year. And with every innovation, we get closer and closer to a car that drives itself.
Getting a car to drive itself on the road is difficult. There are so many different situations that the car has to learn. But getting a New Holland tractor to drive itself on an open field is, in theory, a lot easier.
This is where Kinze Manufacturing comes in. The company has begun testing on autonomous harvesting systems. And like most autonomous companies, it builds on the tech that’s already out there.
Thanks to mobile phones, things like GPS receivers have become super cheap. And the company also benefits from the fact that the car industry has pushed down the price of laser sensors and video cameras.
Combining all these technologies and putting them on a tractor was always going to happen at some point. And now Kinze wants to get ahead of the game and offer farmers a way to autonomously harvest their crops.
Aqua Spy is a tech-oriented company that wants to bring the IoT and big data to farming. It’s a bold move. But with their Vector Probe, they believe that they have the product to make it happen.
The Vector Probe is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a probe that is implanted in the soil. Every fifteen minutes or so, it senses moisture levels around the roots of crops and collects data. Aqua Spy claims that their system is more advanced than other models on the market. And for that reason, the company shows a lot of promise.
The big selling point for farmers is higher yield. When crops are monitored more precisely, farmers can make better decisions on what actions to take. Watering plants when they don’t need it can be expensive. And failing to water crops when they do need it can be even more costly.
Of course, managing all those data is tough. So Aqua Spy also offers a full range of support for processing and interpreting what the Vector Probe is saying.
Sid Gorham is the CEO of Ag startup, Granular. He says that the biggest constraint farmers’ face today is their use of data. Right now, the farming world is dominated by the Excel spreadsheet. But agriculture could improve dramatically if this was abandoned in favor of something a little more modern and analytical.
At the moment, most of the innovators in farming are looking for new ways to seek out better yields. But Granular doesn’t want to do this. Instead, they hope that their analytical technology will help farms to become more profitable. Farmers, in the company’s opinion, need to start thinking of themselves as Fortune 500 companies.
Bringing new apps into farming is going to be a challenge. But the fact that most farmers use tablets makes that challenges a little easier. Feedback on the company’s product has generally been positive. Farmers are impressed with the sheer amount of data that flows through the platform.
Again, the platform allows farmers to avoid time-consuming visual inspections of all of their crops, as well as data entry. Instead, the system automates a lot of the scheduling work that typically goes on a farm.
iCropTrak is another tech startup targeting the agricultural sector. The company wants to allow farmers to track everything they do and collect lots of data. Recently, the firm unveiled a new and perhaps game-changing product.
It’s called the Farm Engine tool. And it’s meant to be able to replace a crop consultant. The product was launched because of the ever-changing nature of best practice on the farm. Every year farmers have to understand and implement new farming techniques.
And staying up to date can be expensive. Hiring a farm consultant can cost more than $2,000. And once the consultant leaves, the farmer is on their own once again.
iCropTrak want to reduce the price and increase the utility of crop consultants by getting software to do the same thing. With the software, farmers are less likely to make mistakes and, as a result, will make more money.