Founder, Innovative Ag Consulting
BUILDING THE BRIDGE BETWEEN GROWERS AND START-UPS TO ACCELERATE ADOPTION OF NEW SOLUTIONS Prevalence of automation in farm operations is highly dependent on the activity. Automation is most developed in weeding and thinning activity with multiple solutions able to automate any field currently. Some of the current top players are Farmwise, Stout, Carbon Robotics and Mantis Ag Technologies. Despite the success in weeding and thinning activities, automating planting and harvesting is far behind. Automating the planting activity is more challenging because any failure or mistakes on planting can lead to sizeable impacts on farm yields. Furthermore, on the harvest side, despite a lot of innovation no technology has reached the state of weeding solutions yet. Though automation technology needs to further evolve, growers also need to adapt and be open to evolving their cultural practices to implement successful solutions. Sometimes the growing or planting methods would need to be reorganized in order to fit the technology requirements. Many firms only get one attempt with a grower and they need to make sure that the technology works perfectly. Very few growers are ready to invest $1 million into a machine that they don’t trust. Given the high expense of the automation solutions, agtech players typically offer as-a-service business models whereby they charge a monthly fee in order to circumvent large investment
requirements for growers. This allows enough time for the grower to experience the technology firsthand and prove the business case to themselves. Lately, however, there is a trend from a service to a sales model, specifically for weeding solutions underscoring the fact that as growers get comfortable with a solution, they would rather take ownership of the technology. There is another interesting model that hasn’t been explored as much which is the shared ownership model to help growers amortize the costs of expensive technology. I have extensive experience working with large growers, having spent 10 years at Church Brothers, as Head of Innovation and VP of Ag Operations, and 10 years at Tanimura and Antle, as General Manager of Harvest. I am a firm believer in the use of technology to transform farm operations. With deep understanding of grower economics and automation needs, I now want to focus my work on working with multiple agtech companies and help them bridge the gap to the growers – help them in connecting with the right people, develop the right value proposition for growers and help them set up initial trials. There is a lot of potential here and I am more than excited to be at the centre of all that is going on in the agtech space.
Figure 56: Interview with Josh Ruiz (Church Brothers) – Building the bridge between growers and start-ups to accelerate adoption of new solutions
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