Western Grower & Shipper 2018 11Nov-Dec

Move Over Siri and Alexa, AgVoice Offers Speech-to-Text Technology Tailored to Ag

By Stephanie Metzinger T hink Siri, but for agriculture. When Bruce Rasa first conceptualized the idea of a speech-to-text data service powered by artificial intelligence, he knew that he wanted to design it with and for food and ag professionals. Growing up, Bruce always had both hands full while working on his family’s 4,000-acre farm in Missouri. His family grew corn, soybean, wheat, hay and apples, and taking notes while knee deep in the field never got easier. “I know, first hand, how painful the record keeping demands of a farm can be,” said Rasa. “This was my inspiration for creating AgVoice.” AgVoice is the world’s first voice and data management start-up company that allows ag professionals the freedom to work hands- free while on-the-go. Using proprietary analytics and processing of raw voice files, anyone in agriculture can conveniently and safely capture data when both hands are occupied. The startup’s mobile voice-interaction service officially launched earlier this year, and the initial response has been positive. In October 2017, S2G Ventures deemed AgVoice’s technology so promising that the venture capital firm offered the startup $250,000 in equity investment during Western Growers’ AgSharks™ Competition. “AgSharks was a game changer for us,” said Rasa. “We had never seen an event where agtech startups can gain access to significant seed capital so quickly. The vast majority of investors we meet don’t have a deep understanding of agriculture so to be on a stage, being groomed by the best in ag, made a massive difference in our growth and ability to deliver a stronger product.”

HOW THE TECHNOLOGY WORKS For the preliminary rollout, AgVoice is targeting farming experts that support growers, such as agronomists, food safety inspectors, plant breeders and advanced research and development teams. So far, the agronomists and plant breeders who tested the system have reported that the technology allows them to survey up to 30 percent more crops per day. They are now able to complete 300 to 400 plot inspections a day, compared to the 200 to 300 previously. AgVoice can also save on costs. In the case of professional plant breeder teams, it turns a two-man job into a one-man effort. “Some of our clients require two plant breeders to go out into the field. One person has both hands inspecting the produce while verbally citing the findings and results. The other is listening, taking notes and filling out required food safety check lists,” said Rasa. “Our voice-first design enables one person to do it all.” The mobile voice-interaction service was designed to achieve four unique features: 1. Recognize Food and Ag Terms: Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa were developed to help consumers and do not always properly translate commonly used words on the farm. The AgVoice service is created with a lexicon that is ag-centric and is able to decipher agricultural terms, names and niche words. 2. No Connectivity Required: In many ag operations, internet and cloud connectivity is either non-existent or intermittent. AgVoice sees a future in which the service could run on a smartphone, in an offline mode, without connectivity to match the realities of the ever changing environments of food production and agriculture. 3. Immediate Corrections: No speech recognition software is perfect. However, with important tasks such as recording food safety data, every single word must be correct. AgVoice recognizes this discrepancy and has designed a system (patent pending) that empowers users in the field to correct checklists and notes on the spot. The technology allows workers to easily identify if the information is not accurate and immediately correct the data using their voice or via manual editing on the screen as a backup—so it always works in any environment. 4. Ease of Use: AgVoice’s technology is a voice-first design. Users are able to open the app on their phone and navigate the service using solely their voice. “We made it so both hands are always free. Users can leave the phone in their pocket and not have to interact with the system until their tasks are completed,” said Rasa. “If the user

10   Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com   NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2018

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