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Ask HN: Agriculture startups doing interesting work?
318 points by greenie_beans 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 202 comments
Maybe I'm out of the loop, but agriculture seems to be an overlooked industry in the startup world, even though there is a ton of opportunity there.

What are some startups who are solving tough agricultural problems? Who are some more established players?

I'm curious about any ag startups, especially those attempting to curb climate change through agriculture. For instance, new takes on outdoor farming techniques (like Indigo), indoor farming startups, folks working on agricultural hardware, machine learning, organic farming, folks developing apps to help farmers, distribution/sales/marketing, etc.




I've been working on a hardware data logger device and web software platform that monitors soil moisture and other environmental metrics that produce-growers care about – soil temperature and conductivity (which indicates salinity or fertiliser penetration), air/canopy temperature, rainfall, irrigation, humidity, solar radiation, etc.

We've been working on the product for about 4-5 years (as a side project while working on other things to pay the bills). Initially it was a smartphone-connected device using Bluetooth and manual data retrieval, but we've just reached production-ready stage of a newer version that uses the new LTE Cat-M1 cellular data protocol (which uses existing 4G cellular infrastructure but is optimised for lower power and longer range).

So we now have a whole lot of these devices sitting in crops (E.g., grapevines, wheat, fruit/vegetables, nuts, sugar cane), some of them over 20km from their nearest cell tower (you can extend the range further with high-gain antennas but we haven't had to do that yet), automatically uploading all this data and generating various data views (time series graphs and dashboards) to help growers make decisions about when/how much to irrigate etc.

It can also do reactive/proactive stuff like detect when temperature close to the surface drops to near 2°C overnight and send out frost warning alerts, and over time we intend to make the data platform powerful enough that it can do things like automate the switching on/off of irrigation pumps in response to soil moisture level trends.

I don't have a website to point to yet. I'm working on a demo site now.

But I'd be interested to hear from anyone who is working on tech like this or is interested to work on it or partner in some way (email address is in my profile).

Despite having worked in the space for nearly 5 years, I'm still not sure why this tech isn't more commonplace – i.e., why every professional grower isn't already using something like this. This kind of tech has been around for a long time, so we're not doing anything completely new, just doing it more affordably and hopefully making better use of modern tech.

From what I've been able to learn about the market, it seems that the big industrial-scale producers use this type of tech, though what they use is costly and sophisticated to install/maintain. But for many smaller growers, it's considered not important enough to make the investment, and they're happy doing things the way they and the previous generations have always done it.

But with water scarcity becoming an issue in many parts of the world it will become increasingly important for growers of all scales to use this kind of tech to avoid water wastage.

We've also had the opportunity to trial the equipment with growers in Far-North Queensland, inland from the Great Barrier Reef. The government and industry bodies in that region are interested to see how this kind of tech could be used to minimise over-watering leading to fertiliser run-off into the sea, which is a contributor to coral bleaching.

So, yeah, that's what I'm doing. Happy to hear from anyone interested to know more or work together.


this is really cool. i'm currently in Melbourne (but from the USA) -- http://bit.ly/elasticventures-growpotbot

I posted on another thread -- but basically the innovation in this area was stifled by lack of military applications in the USA and farmers "not being real good at technology" and good ole' fashioned corruption in the academic institutions.

If you'd like this to be full time - I know a guy that manages a tycoon fortune and he might like to help you. hmu - http://elastic.ventures


Strangely enough I'm in LA right now. In the U.S. for another 2.5 weeks. Will ping you. Thanks for the comment.


> I'm still not sure why this tech isn't more commonplace

It's the same story with DFM probes (artificial root that measures water content). I think the (one) reason is that it's quicker to get in your bakkie (pick-up) or quad bike and go to the block yourself than trying to figure out on your computer why the probe says you had applied water throughout the whole night (i.e., 15 times too much). Turns out someone walked passed, opened the valve and just walked away (for shits and giggles?).


Indeed.

By the way, our product uses probes like DFM's. We don't have any users using that brand (from what I can see it doesn't support being connected to 3rd-party data-loggers) but other brands like Aquacheck (also from South Africa), Sentek and EnviroPro (both Australia) can connect to any data logger that supports the SDI-12 protocol. We have several users running EnviroPro and Aquacheck probes.

It's noteworthy that all the leading vendors of these types of probes come from South Africa and Australia, both of which are food-growing countries that have always had to deal with water scarcity. I've long felt it gives us a head start over places that have previously not had major water availability issues, but are starting to experience them now (e.g., California).


PS you are right about the 3rd party logging and that's also why the others will be more successful.


May I know if you irrigate nut trees if the degree is below 2 C, how does it effect ? Thanks


I actually didn't know the answer to this until I wrote that comment last night and realised it's something I should know.

It turns out it's better for the plant for thick ice to freeze over it, than for it to just be in cold/frosty air. This is because in the process of the water freezing, it releases its heat into the plant, and this can keep it warm enough to avoid damage (up to a a point).

This article explains it, with cool pics: https://hortau.com/2019/03/why-do-we-irrigate-when-there-is-...


I am the founder of Optimal: http://optimal.ag.

We are a team of engineers and scientists from DeepMind, Palantir, Oxford and MIT. Our mission is to grow safer, healthier food by deploying fully autonomous greenhouses outside every city on earth. We are backed by leading deep technology funds, including Founders Fund.

We believe that high-tech greenhouses will be an important part of our agricultural future, for improved human nutrition and as a hedge to climate change, and we are doing everything we can to accelerate the deployment of new farms around the world.

We are in stealth mode right now so there's not a huge amount about us online but we've made strong progress with the core technology and I would be happy to speak more about our work privately.


I spent a bunch of time modelling out the unit economics for autonomous greenhouses and struggled to find any combination of technologies that could even come close to competing with the current costs of field agriculture, including labor. Do you folks need something key to change in the competitive landscape (like climate change or very different immigration laws in the US) to become profitable?

See https://www.eater.com/2018/7/3/17531192/vertical-farming-agr... for an example of the costs for the case of indoor vertical farms.


There’s a significant efficiency difference between high-tech greenhouses (glasshouses) and warehouse (aka vertical) farms. High-tech greenhouses will not compete with field farms for staple crops, but they are already profitably supplying fresh produce in many countries.


Oh of course, and to be quite honest, I really hope you folks can succeed in your mission. But, I still found that at least locally (in southern Ontario), the unit costs of importing from California still make sense compared to growing locally because of the cost of artificial lighting and the difficulties growing year round. The big greenhouse operations locally grow a premium product that can command a much higher price in order to justify the capex compared to field agriculture or just importing. I assume that premium price would have to go up even more to justify a big investment in automation, right? That's why I was asking if expensive robotics are viable now vs reliant on some change in the market dynamics.


California’s lettuce production alone is a 3 billion dollar industry.

Entire Ag income in Netherlands is around 3 billion dollars.

California lettuce farms have a year round growing season and we move from Salinas to Yuma in winter. We grow organic lettuce with cover cropping and crop rotation.

Glass houses are NOT more efficient than how we grow in CA. We have water shortage and a labour problem. The main problem is labour.

We need robotics to solve our problem. Not data oriented Agtech. Most of the Agtech startups are creating a new sector that didn’t exist before. They are not addressing our throbbing pain point.

Labour. Labour. Labour.

Even automation solutions needs engineers who need to draw 6 figures to work and live in the Bay Area. It’s still cheaper to hire minimum wage labour and make human beings do repetitive manual labour.

There is nothing cheaper than FREE. Sunlight is free. We don’t need energy hungry indoor automation in CA. In east coast maybe..in the frozen northlands of Canada maybe..but CA is an Ag state. We do upwards of 45 billion in Ag income every year. We need real solutions. Every Agtech company wants a piece of the 45 billion dollar pie. They are not working to make it bigger. CA farms are consumers of new tech. Without ROI.

Agtech startups need to Keep It Simple.

Ping me if anyone wants to discuss this further.

[..] GDP From Agriculture in Netherlands decreased to 2544 EUR Million in the second quarter of 2019 from 3071 EUR Million in the first quarter of 2019. GDP From Agriculture in Netherlands averaged 2641.87 EUR Million from 1995 until 2019, reaching an all time high of 3343 EUR Million in the third quarter of 2016 and a record low of 1860 EUR Million in the fourth quarter of 1996.[..]


I'm not in ag but anybody working on a modular elevated track system? Let the sun shine right thru. Automate a ton of physical tasks, like that one gardening startup (forgot name). Some central unit coordinates it all and offers an api, that way third-parties can program specific bots for specific tasks and its all orchestrated without collisions. Allow a whole industry of startups to build on such physical 'Operating Systems'. Seems so obvious I must have seen it in a sci-fi movie or something and I forgot.


You are right. The only scenario where is makes sense is in the Netherlands and even they are struggling to stay in business, meaning they will have to specialise or rethink their business plan. Data analysis in the open field is just as interesting to do and in fact has a much more transferable (eventual) tech stack.


Did you model the cost of transportation and logistics to grow things in the opposite hemisphere out of the local growing season or months of cold storage?


I did! Transportation only accounted for 22% of the cost of a head of lettuce in my local Walmart, which wasn't really enough margin to justify the cost of the artifical lighting necessary to grow in Canada (even in dense southeastern Ontario). I think right now the most realistic application of these technologies is for premium products that are branded as such, like hot house tomatoes or living plants that can command 2-5x the standard barebones import price. Do you have different data?


The only way it would be comparable to CA flown in lettuce is the greenhouse/vertical farms are fully automated and there is a super short supply chain and absolutely no wastage. This can be achieved by supplying to local markets which would shorten supply chain. But the scale would have to be massive to make a buck out of this.

Automated greenhouses must also look into growing underground. In tunnels beneath or near water treatment plants or anywhere where there is steam.

Further, energy will always be an issue. There are two ways to go about it. Cheap electricity by going nuclear. Or advances in material sciences to develop new kinds of indoor lights/batteries or greenhouse material that can help with light/heat/thermal insulation.(one company is doing it with quantum/nano dots as greenhouse material. ETFE can be a better material than greenhouse plastic or glasshouses)


> Our mission is to grow safer, healthier food by deploying fully autonomous greenhouses outside every city on earth.

How exactly is food grown from autonomous greenhouses than traditional greenhouses safer and healthier? Or, alternatively, how is it safer and healthier if it is grown right outside of the cities in which in supply?


Controlled environment means pest and weed management is easier with fewer or no chemical agents.

Closer to end user means less plant engineering for transport and storage which is correlated with worse nutrition (or just less variety)


Presumably the health/safety improvement in high-tech greenhouses is that you can eliminate the need for pesticides and herbicides.


different set of problems; equipment failures and mold's & fungus become bigger problems. it's not a closed loop since we need fresh co2 to trigger photosynthesis and nothing is 100% failure proof.


Seems like there's plenty of CO2 to go around. What's the issue?


Commercial greenhouse growers usually supplement CO2 up to Levels of 1000-1500 ppm and above.

The CO2 storage and distribution facility is one more technical component and there is one more dependency to the supplier of the liquid CO2.


How do you envisage the impact that these greenhouses will have on the environment surrounding them? I often wonder about polytunnels and how they shut out quite a bit of wildlife. Something like this view in Almeria, Spain - https://lh6.ggpht.com/-IHVqCZRVzzo/UiGekR4rgEI/AAAAAAAAr6M/e... - concerns me given broader issues such as the collapse in the number of insects - https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/27/magazine/insect-apocalyps... (although pesticides seem likely to be the main culprit there).


I think the rationale here is that the intensified production in greenhouses frees up formerly used as agricultural land elsewhere that could then be repurposed for wildlife and insects.

Personally I am not sure this math adds up. At least in Germany farming land is categorized and once the land loses its status as farmland, it can never be turned back into farmland, losing much of its monetary value in the process. Thus the land owners have an intrinsic motivation to keep their property in the farmland category.


That's an enormously productive piece of land though and any sort of food production is going to be bad for the environment.


"... any sort of food production is going to be bad for the environment."

This isn't true per se. There are lots of people trying to farm in an environmentally sensitive manner - like http://www.polyfacefarms.com/. There are discussions to be had about whether this kind of farming can feed enough people in the world, but it's not a given that farming is bad.


Just curious if you are planning to open your solutions up to non-food solutions: E.g. commercially licensed cannabis cultivators?

Autonomous / IoT greenhouses seem to be a big "thing" up here in Northern California where many commercial cultivators are.


Good question. Growing cannabis does not align directly with our mission. However the production methods for cannabis are fairly similar to crops such as tomatoes and so it may be something we consider doing. I want to be clearer on the health benefits before committing.


hey dfsegoat -- GrowPotBot http://growbot.online is 1/3rd focused on cannabis. we also do vegetables so we aren't a "weed appliance"; if you'd like to collaborate and test a prototype sounds like we'd get along. ;-)


If google tag manager doesn't load, the links on your site do nothing.


Thanks - will sort


Whats the big difference with modern existing greenhouses, like the ones in The Netherlands?


High-tech Dutch greenhouses are our base class. We are working very closely with operators in The Netherlands currently.


Wageningen is the world's leading Agtech university. I just returned 2 weeks ago and the 2025 European Food production estimates are ugly, dairy down 30%, potatoes down, onions down, maize, wheat and other cereals down a lot.

Basically, Europen food is in trouble.


This seems to be contrary to what the EU's ag outlook report from 2018[1] is saying.

What changed in the last year? And do you have any sources (i.e. studies) that support that point?

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/food-farming-fish...


Europe is facing many problems. Soil compaction, climate crisis, lack of labour force, ground water contamination in some places. Very little demand for organic produce. And pest/pathogen pressure. Example: Even places like Spain and Italy are uprooting olive groves and moving it to Turkey and Morocco where labour is cheaper and plant pathogens haven’t entirely destroyed the soil. Africa used to supply a lot of food. But EU insisted on non-GMO. Now that China is moving in to Africa(and South America) with their Belt and Trade initiative, Africa is happy growing for China.

And China isn’t slacking either. China..for example..supplies most of the tomatoes and ketchup internationally.. competing with Provence and Italy .. this is a good documentary: https://www.moderntimes.review/the-untold-story-of-the-red-g...


What is the reason for this? Does the same problem exist in US, Canada, etc?


Europe is very hostile to gene technology in plant breeding. A lot of the technologies developed after the 1970s are banned in plant breeding (while they are allowed in medical industries). European legislation also regards CRISPR editing as GMO, and most GMOs are effectively banned in Europe. In America, GMOs are typically allowed, and in America CRISPS editing is not regarded as GMO.

If you are a plant breeding scientist, you can either work in Europe with your hands tied behind your back, or move somewhere else and innovate more freely.

I am sure there are other equally important reasons, but this is one.


Very interesting. I have experience building an automating aquaponics gardens for this very use case. I also have industry experience in "The Valley" and a fancy degree as well. How do I get in touch with you?


How do you propose to keep those autonomous systems secure against threat actors ?


Security guards?


I've long been fascinated by this space. From the farm ERP system / IoT, autonomous vehicles in ag, to vertical farms, hydroponics, aquaponics, etc. I'd love to learn more about what you are doing.


How would deploying greenhouses be helping to fight climate change? Many greenhouses now use energy for heating. Or maybe are you talking about passive greenhouses only?


While true, climatization during the summer months is the bigger challenge and probably even more expensive when trying to achieve a closed system to keep out the pests.

A greenhouse in temperate climate (eg. Sweden) captures approx. 2.9 fold the energy amount that is required for heating in the winter. But this excess heat of course is captured in summer, wehen you need to get rid of it. Seasonal heat storage is not easy.

Passive solar greenhouses are promising with that regard.


I clicked on "Careers" at optimal.ag but it doesn't work( Wanted to see who are u hiring at the moment



This is exactly what I am working on. Using climate data for more efficient farming, in a nutshell.

Established players are like sledge hammers. They are successful if they are hard working and have some competitive edge (could be labour cost, could be local knowledge, could be profit reinvestment, could be rights to varieties).

Farmers are the most efficient managers you'll ever find. They don't need management, so IMHO any startup that tries a "smart farm" is underestimating the intelligence of the farm managers.

The sweet spot is immediate deliverables in terms of cost saving or other forms of optimisation. In the time of my grandfather, the profit margin was 50% and a flip of the coin whether you'll actually get anything to the market. Today it is <10% and you better know what you are doing.

The retailers are the real money spinners; if you want to make your money at the primary level you better like the social aspect of farming as well.

Don't misunderstand, there is plenty tech, but it is probably more important whether you are willing to work on a Sunday. Take from it what you will; my opinions tend to somewhat unique (in this regard). For example, don't waste your time with "organic farming". It's a marketing term and actually not very descriptive (vs. "organic chemistry"). Sure, you could make money, but in marketing.

The toughest problems are pretty damn interesting though and are basically going to cross polinate with the most cutting edge climate change research.


Chicken coops that are picked up at night by 6 heavy duty drones and flown to a new part of the field —- sign me up


Is this then called 3D free range chicken?


free++, since their 'range' of freedom is constantly being changed to a new location in the field, plus before, they still had 3 dimensions of range, hopping up into coop at night (+z) and hopping down during day (-z). I'm talking about organic farm chickens here, not factory farm.


I'd recommend following AgFunder News: https://agfundernews.com (RSS, Twitter, whatever you like). I find that they cover the industry fairly well (or at least link to enough interesting things to get you a foothold). You're totally right that this is an overlooked industry, though make no mistake, many of the big players (your John Deeres and such) have very sophisticated R&D and engineering initiatives pursuing market opportunities in a variety of ag tech realms.


> though make no mistake, many of the big players (your John Deeres and such) have very sophisticated R&D and engineering initiatives pursuing market opportunities in a variety of ag tech realms

Seconding this. It's easy to think that because SV engineers aren't aware of or don't work on an industry that not much happens in it, but there's a lot of technology in agriculture already. For example, modern tractors can drive themselves, and plant seeds and apply fertilizer exactly where needed using GPS localization. This isn't even that new either. And that's just one highly visible example. There's tons of other R&D in seed companies and other parts of agriculture.


Indigo Agriculture (indigoag.com) - Boston/Memphis/Remote

Shameless plug for Indigo Agriculture (indigoag.com). We're expanding on a number of different fronts with the central goal of increasing farmer profitability while reducing the environmental impact of production. Here are some of the groups at Indigo that are hiring: - Marketplace: matching growers producing high quality crops with buyers who need that quality. Giving farmers a reason to produce crops that are better than commodity standard, produced in better ways. - Transport: contract trucking services to allow farms to sell their products, efficiently, well beyond their current reach - Agronomy/Precision Agriculture: giving farmers the tools and expertise they need to improve their efficiency while reducing environmental impact. - Remote Sensing: supplementing Indigo's and growers' knowledge of fields with continuously updating global observations from satellites - Carbon Sequestration (terraton.org): sequestering a trillion tons of carbon dioxide into agricultural soils to improve soil quality while slowing the march of climate change

If you are interested, please apply on our website or feel free to reach out to me directly at jmcdonald@indigoag.com. I'm a software engineer who works across a number of the above groups. I'd love to chat or put you in touch with the right person.


Not disparaging the company whatsoever, but depending on the job you're looking for at Indigo, make sure you take a look at Glassdoor. Indigo looks impressive from many angles, yes. And while it's anecdotal at best, I say with all honesty that I have a few close friends that have interviewed there and confirm the central themes of the negative reviews.


None of the jobs are explicitly remote - any heuristics for identifying which roles are remote friendly?


I work on the marketplace team—most of our software engineering roles are remote friendly, especially on the marketplace and transport teams. I recommend applying as we have a strong ratio of remote folks and can place you in teams where that’s well supported.


I used to work in a coworking space that TellusLabs also worked in, and I was going to mention them in this thread until I saw just now that Indigo acquired them last year. Very cool!


http://growbot.online (GrowPotBot) YC W2018 is an open source positronic (AI) aeroponic residential and lightweight industrial gardening appliance.

the tech stack fits into multiple platforms, we spent the last few years in China and Malaysia understanding value engineering, manufacturing logistics.

we're hoping to ship in major retailers starting in 2020 with an incredibly low < $100 'in cabinet' unit that can produce peppers, tomatoes and cannabis (or whatever you want). the primary differentiator is the cost and intelligence of the unit targeted at high yield strains of food and medicine in small spaces.

we're hoping to make them so cheap we can nearly give them away and make indoor urban farming "a thing" before climate change really kicks into full gear and destroys outdoor gardens.

positronic "closed loop" garden, happy to share what we're working on with other like minded people and collaborating with other growers internationally on open-data standards for storing this data and compiled models.


Sounds like a very promising venture. I like that you're willing to share the data and are offering an intelligence unit.

Have you thought of implementing experimental designs at scale? like you're intelligence unit could organize large scale controlled experiments on possible improvements in technique/process/genetics with willing participants. Since all the systems are controlled, closed loop, and use the same equipment a lot of variance that is present in typical ag experiments would be avoided. This combined with a high number of participants to replicate the experiment could offer a robust platform for rapid improvement via citizen science.


Thanks @thatcat .. I need to credit micckey at Post Scarcity Robotics for the inspiration to collaborate, that's been my primary driver the last few months to find other people who are like minded and work with them. https://github.com/limikael/ideas/blob/master/PostScarcityRo...

My primary focus is on the scale, implementing something that is both safe, easy to operate (idiot proof) and environmentally friendly (negative carbon footprint).

My goal is to be able to self realize an economy of scale as it pertains to my own AI/IA interests. Robotic assembly, etc. but not necessarily bringing it to foxconn -- at the same time secure enough that if you want to run it over tor and grow psychadelic cactus in the desert you can do that too -- although it will require loading your own custom software.

I'm a 3rd generation farming family (in general ornamental agriculture) and I've been designing these systems myself for years. I expect humans to screw up this planet in the next 10-20 years and so these are what we'll need to survive in our bunkers; I don't want any shitty drm or anything.

The AI is also a bit complex; but the goal is to allow the units to work together in a quorum for fault tolerance. I literally expect these devices to keep people alive, and hopefully eliminate food deserts at the same time.


> before climate change really kicks into full gear and destroys outdoor gardens

Not sure what the case will be that you can sustain yourself on your apartment tomato while outdoors is Armageddon. Nice! Good luck with your marketing strategy!


marketing strategy is key.

The tech & science behind the yield optimization -- up to 6x 'overclocked photosynthesis'

using aeroponics (not soil), optimized for photonic efficiency -- humans can accelerate the growth of plants substantially effectively "overlocking" nature.

it's based on the Minskey/MIT media lab designs and some pieces I found in China -- a training gym for growing plants, but with a non-laboratory 'real world' implementation.

also I don't think a single unit would be sufficient - not from a redundancy standpoint you'd want at least three for a 'quorum' and redundancy if life depended on it. otherwise it's a novelty -- but it's cheap enough everybody can afford one; and it has gamification to make it fun. it's a vegetable appliance "for your health"

the idea is micro-to-macro scalable; you can start with one in your childs room, and the move it to the patio or the garage.

the units themselves are designed to run for 100+ years -- and you can either connect to our cloud or run your own on some commodity hardware (like a raspberry pi).

if the yields go up; with year round growing cycles and cloning mature plants it won't take a ton of vertical space.

did I mention it also makes fresh air?


I’d be careful before following the MIT media lab designs too carefully. Their agriculture project has been called “mostly smoke and mirrors”: https://www.businessinsider.com/mit-media-lab-personal-food-...


thanks @shoyer -- i'm not; but conceptually they were closest. By increasing the intensity of the light (in pulses) at specific frequencies in the 420nm growth & 700nm veg we can increase yield. Each light frequency causes a different type of growth inside the auxins part of a plants central nervous system.

Photosynthesis is a chemical reaction and it works similar to a doped transistor pre-saturation when going from light to dark. This is why plants roughly grow the same on sunny and cloudy days despite having MORE energy on the sunny day. By controlling the nutrients; pulsing the light and watching the leaves we can build stronger chemical pathways inside the plant .. I'm calling these "cybernetic pathways" since it's organic plus artificial intelligence.

The MIT work was funded (in part) by the world-class douche nozzle Jeffery Epstein as well; but studying that did inspire me so I feel like credit is due. MIT at the time also lacked the AI technology libraries we have today to make something cost effective anyway. Espressif Esp32 w/ov2640 cameras are so cheap!!

I grew up in commercial agriculture; 3rd generation ornamental farmer & ag-scientist who dropped the family business of farming for the dot-com bubble yay "Internet" tech! This is me going back to my "roots" and teaching a positronic brain how to accelerate plant growth, so it scratches my AI & IOT itch at the same time.

I showed my dad that MIT research as a kid and he called it crap told me the reasons it doesn't work "no soil" haha .. farmers don't like to change unless they need to which is why I'm not targeting farmers at all; instead a residential appliance which is "soil-less" allowing more efficient nutrient distribution and also allowing oxidation of the roots by disabling pumps. In China they use positive pressure on the root systems to actually force the fertilizer in -- haven't seen anything like that in the west. The soil in the US is almost dead; it's losing nutrients so fast due to over fertilization we need better solutions.

Being from Southern California we had a lot of hyper water efficient indoor stealth growing in the Cannabis space. That's where most of the experience comes from -- but those guys (my friends) don't like to show off what they're doing. .. that's why this needs to be something that works anywhere.


> humans can accelerate the growth of plants substantially effectively "overlocking" nature.

For the production of biomass you need photosynthesis. The coupling between the amount of photons you supply and the produced biomass is strong and uncicumventable. So even when you implement all the nice optimizations to accelerate plant growth, you still need to supply a proportional amount of light. If this light is artificial, which you need to achieve the claimed space efficiency, then this implies a lot of energy and monetary cost.

When growing indoors, shutting out the sun light that is supplied for free, you even worsen the situation.

I think it is nice for people to grow some of their food themselves, but this method is nowhere near solving any of the problems agriculture and horticulture are going to face in the near future.


@jsilence - the GrowPotBot is micro-scale but using relays it could control a much bigger system so a single unit could control a greenhouse or space-station. Just like a PC could control one light in your home or many.

For a space station i'd recommend having at least three of them and a quorum protocol to detect failures. (planned, but not in the MVP)

now let's get into "GrowPotBot is a toy which doesn't solve any problems" .... hmm, okay let's start by ignoring the urban food deserts in poverty stricten areas and focus on the "food that looks like food but isn't really nutritious due to it being harvested before it was ripe and then sat in a refrigerated storeroom or transport ship for a year before you got it" .. so that creates a MASSIVE carbon footprint between refrigeration and storage. it was also irradiated and chemically treated to destroy any bugs before it was allowed to move across borders.

Also -- at least in the land down under (where I am) in Australia we have the largest density per capita of hydroponic growers in the world and something curious happened because .... well, FUCK capitalism where a handful of growers cut costs and used nasty fertilizers and made 'unhealthy toxic hydro vegetables' or at least that is NOW what the public perception, so a lot of people want more control over what they eat and GrowPotBot delivers that.

i personally don't like getting my food from nameless industrial agriculture who is using who knows what pesticides, if you're cool with that then good on ya!

which brings me to respond to your last point that sunlight is somehow better. umm.. no. that's false.

i love sunlight; getting the vitamin D. but sunlight is only available in limited quantities during the daytime and plants can actually grow and grow and grow for 18-20 hours per day. plants actually do marginal photosynthesis in moonlight btw. plants evolved with the sun we have, so yeah -- of course sunlight works; but they're actually quite 'inefficient'

if you've got sunlight and can control heat WHILE keeping the pests and organisms (soil fungus) away then absolutely it's possible to design an enclosure which uses natural sunlight. the bigger it gets; the more difficult a proposition that is.

there's some fascinating research in this area; but suffice to say that frequency and intensity with a intelligent optical sensors in a closed feedback loop (positronic farming) is something "new" -- and "new" ag-tech is exceptionally rare. the thing is -- it's more computer/electronics than it is farming, and farmers like to rely on natural systems versus man-made systems which is why I'm skipping the farmers and going straight to the consumers.

now for the science:

plants use red 650nm-720nm & blue !420nm and reflect green light. red produces fruit "veg" and blue produces growth "blue" and again green is reflected. this is known, google "why leaves are green" and how chlorophyll operates to generate sugar and growth.

solar panels take in full spectrum photons regardless of frequency including x-ray, gamma rays, bla bla .. and newer [future] versions actually convert waste heat back into current -- this means that we're effectively able to take in full spectrum sunlight and change the frequency to something plants can use. i suspect we'll see clear solar panels / nano-films at some point.

GrowPotBot is using 12v LED fobs doped for specific frequencies which have very (absurdly) high efficiency rates and very low heat dumps compared to traditional grow rooms which often require massive cooling. so please don't compare us to those medieval monolithic architectures with giant high pressure sodium monsters. thanks!


FBN was recently started in 2014 by 2 guys from the Silicon Valley area. So far, they focus on data analytics (e.g. seed yields).

There are various articles about them and youtube videos:

https://www.google.com/search?q=FBN+"farmers+business+networ...

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=fbn+farmers+bus...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oML9yLjTfk8


I’m an engineer at FBN.

We do more than data these days; it’s best to say we do anything we can to help farmers’ bottom line.

In the past year or so we’ve started offering health insurance, started a seed company, and brokerage.

That means we can help farmers with their inputs before the season, decisions during the season with data analysis, and selling outputs afterwords.

And of course we’re hiring!


I think we're doing interesting work at Apollo Agriculture (https://apolloagriculture.com)!

We work with smallholder farmers in subsaharan africa (currently Kenya) to help them transition to commercial farming. Basically, we sell them a package of the seed, fertilizer, advice, insurance, and training that they need to substantially improve their yield and profits. We're moving towards helping farmers shift to a diversified blend of crops and providing market access.

(In most of the developed world, these are all provided by different players, but the challenges of a developing market push us to offer them all together.)

If you're interested in chatting, either drop a comment here or shoot me an email at (earl at apolloagriculture dot com).


I'm interested in chatting and have emailed you earlier but never got a response. Our organisation (precisionag.org) also works in Kenya among other countries, we provide smallholder farmers with personalized agronomic advice over SMS and voice systems. We're always looking for partners and we use a lot of experimental economics to fine tune and validate our approaches. (One of our founders just won the Nobel prize for economic sciences.)


I'm definitely going to email you. My name is Obinna, and I have experience in automated agtech systems. I'm interested in the work and very invested in Subsaharan African agriculture.


I'm the data science lead at http://agrian.com. Shoot me a message if you want to chat (email in profile). I love talking about this topic and trading notes.


That link doesn't seem to work, btw.


Thanks for the heads up. It redirects to https://home.agrian.com/.


Opinion coming from someone who studied Agribusiness but works in high technology.

Farmwise.io is doing some really excellent work. We have a big problem these days with getting low cost labor in California that our Ag producers have traditionally relied on. I also find the team at planet.com to be doing incredibly valuable work that has some really profound and broad applications for agriculture.


You need to look north:

https://www.farmersedge.ca/ ; precision farming, exited by Kleiner Perkins via sale to Prem Watsa of Fairfax Financial

https://seedotrun.com/ ; autonomous farming

https://www.seedmaster.ca ; precision farming

These companies actually have customers and / or are well on their way to commercialization


Very cool to see these posted here (they're in my backyard). Interestingly, DOT and Seedmaster have a very close relationship. Last time I was out there, DOT equipment was being fabricated by folks in the Seedmaster shop.


started by the same dude, share common ownership


I know of two:

https://artemisag.com/ — Artemis (previously Agrilyst) won TechCrunch Disrupt SF a few years ago, and is building a management platform for enterprise-scale indoor farms.

https://farmtogether.com/ — FarmTogether is a platform that allows anyone to invest in US farmland

(Source: I was an early employee at Artemis, and a friend from high school is a cofounder of FarmTogether)


FarmLogs (YC W12). It was the site of my first internship and I really couldn't have had a better experience.

https://farmlogs.com


Agriculture is the single most destructive human activity. It is the primary cause of the extraordinary biodiversity loss we had the last 80 years.

We lost half of all life in numbers https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/oct-19-2019-understanding-th..., agriculture is the primary cause of that.

Look with your own eyes what is left only 150 years after we arrived in Western Australia, https://earth.google.com/web/@-33.86075979,117.66498741,330.... and most of that happened in the last 50 years.

So anything we can do to increase yield, and restoring current agricultural land to original habitat, as far as that is possible, is a very worthy cause.


The worst part about startups and agriculture is trying to bridge the two. I spend a LOT of time thinking about the shortcomings in agriculture and how I'd do it better. So many areas for advancing a current technology. But then I'm often hindered by a simple question -- "Can I turn this into a startup?" I use Paul Graham's definition [0] as a litmus test and always fail to complete the necessary circle.

I've recently decided "to hell with it" and am diving in. I'm hustling as a hemp farmer now. Learning a lot. Especially about how to actually become a farmer. The different types of farmers. How other conventional farmers can actually make it.

I'm coming up with lots of ideas, but still no silver bullets. No unicorns. I see all these companies posted here and agree that most will be very beneficial and influential in the future. But will any see 10% weekly growths? Unlikely. But I'm always enthusiastic and hopeful that they will.

Right now the average age for a US farmer is 59 [1]. Assuming they can make it to retirement, we'll begin cresting in farmer turn-over in 5 years. The problem is many will be selling out to the highest bidder if they don't already have somebody lined up to take over the reigns. That will be the already established, large, industrial scale commercial farming operation.

So back to my original point, how can we bridge the startup world with agriculture? No idea. But I'm hopeful one of these companies do.

0: http://www.paulgraham.com/growth.html

1: https://modernfarmer.com/2018/06/by-the-numbers-state-of-the...


I’d be surprised if your average small/med farmer retires at 65 in the US. I’d guess an average above 70.


I did some interesting work in this space. With several thousand seasons of data I used an MLP network to visualize phenotypic plasticity (how plants react to a range of environmental conditions).

Accurately cleaning the input data proved to be extremely important, because there's a tremendous amount of "noise" at the individual level when dealing with living organisms, so lots of high-quality data is necessary to tease out relationships. Establishing causality was also important, considering the potential for confounding variables.

It also gave me a chance to brush up on my React/front end skills, but that was more ancillary.

https://sproutling.ai/blog/harvest-simulations?jm2

https://sproutling.ai/blog/growth-simulations?jm2


HN-style site for agtech and foodtech: https://feedit.agfunder.com/

Im with Agfunder, we built this with Django, with thanks to https://github.com/nikolak/django_reddit


You might be interested in IronOx: http://ironox.com/

Indoor produce grown "by robots with love"


I'm an application developer at Semios (Vancouver, BC).

Semios has one of the largest IoT networks in agriculture to gather and analyze data to help farmers drive data-driven solutions. The network collects micro-climate data to predict disease and pest risk, alert growers of risks in real-time, and help improve water efficiency.

We have a complex stack composed of hardware, embedded, applications, data engineers and data scientists. We're hiring!

As an example, Semios helps growers reduce pest populations organically by disrupting the insect communication channels using pheromone released by IoT devices in the field. We track the effectiveness of pheromone using cameras in the field, and machine-learning algorithms to count pests.

https://www.semios.com


and we're hiring! https://semios.com/jobs/


Interested to know more about the data science infrastructure. Is there someone you could connect me with?


I worked for The Climate Corporation when it was acquired by Monsanto (now Bayer) for $1B.

There is certainly plenty of potential for innovative tech in agriculture, but it’s a really tough space. Machine learning and big data are not magic bullets. The level of noise in experimental measurements is very high, which makes it difficult to prove the effectiveness of almost any intervention.

Climate Corp did (and still does) sell a SAS product advising growing decisions based on machine learning. But the price of that product has fallen dramatically over time, and now it’s nearly free. The premium product now has a list price of $1/acre vs. expected grower revenue of ~$700/acre (for corn in the US). What does that say about the value the software provides?


Is this FieldView?

Well..hold my beer! Field view collected so much data that the farmer doesn’t need(aka can’t use). And paid for it.

There is so much data in the field that is worth more than the crop that is being sold. So..no..the farmer doesn’t get to monetize it. Farmers shouldn’t have to pay for any data collected that isn’t used by him but can be commoditized.

In fact farmers should be PAID for allowing companies to extract data. They are mining data from our fields and making US pay for it. It’s like how Tom Sawyer painted his fence!


There is undoubtedly some value in this data, but it is far less than you think. Despite the hype about big data, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions from any uncontrolled observational trial.

Consider how often nutrition studies contradict each other. We still don’t know for sure if it’s better to eat less red meat!

Having spent a bit of time working in this space, I can assure you that it is basically the same scenario. If Climate Corp could prove that the data they are collecting with FieldView was valuable, they would be making a heck of a lot more money.


Do you know how much the climate corporation is involved in cross selling/promoting the products of Monsanto/Bayer?


can it work for a different country ?


Take a look at the comments in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20910845 (36 points, 44 days ago, 19 comments) , perhaps the farmers use more technology than you think.


https://www.descarteslabs.com - Satellite imagery for predictive intelligence, lots of work in agtech for things like crop yields.


I'm sure this will just get lost in, but hey I'll say it anyway.

I've worked in aquaculture science for years before I moved onto programming (Pays better / I don't have to worry about farm alarms going off at 2 am). I've worked in nearly every type of far. I've been at some of the most cutting edge Recirculatory aquaculture systems in the UK, and I've taught degree and master students in the field.

Its a dishearting situation right now. Company after company in this field seems to be going bust because they keep having their technology stolen by the Chinese state.

Other than Salmon farming the UK aquaculture industry is fucked. Even if you automated everything, it's still cheaper to produce aquaculture products in third world countries and ship it in. The recirculatory aquaculture field as it stands is dependant on EU grants. (Which have stopped because of Brexit) And also renewable energy grants. A few years back, the government would pay you money to heat water with a biomass boiler. So it was and maybe still is to run a RAS system without fish in it.

I'm currently working on some R&D with Giant freshwater prawns (Macrobrachium rosenbergii,) to hopefully farm blue claws so that they form in higher densities. But this is only a side project and until major legislative change happens warm water aquaculture in the UK is fucked.


I’m surprised nobody has mentioned AppHarvest yet. The NYT[1] recently covered them.

Their investor list in and of itself is pretty interesting.

Plus, their building out of Morehead, Ky. Morehead was the “big city” when I was growing up, so it’s cool to see innovation there.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/03/business/appharvest-green...


Definitely want to take the time to throw out a huge recommendation for FBN (Farmers Business Network), a KPCB/Google Ventures backed startup that's doing really cool work in data analysis + aggregation + insights for farmers.

For the sake of clarity, I was an intern there, but I objectively think that their approach is very insightful and hits a lot of key points that many ag startups get wrong. Two of my biggest personal takeaways were that obsession with farm yields doesn't actually translate very well to increased profits, because there are so many other factors and costs (and risk) in farm operations. Furthermore, because of all these other operations (e.g. researching better seed varieties, buying inputs, loans in order to buy inputs and hope that they can be repaid later when harvest time comes), there is a huge need to address pervasive and complex issues with regards to the entire farming enterprise, not just the yield portion. FBN does a really great job at tackling the holistic approach, which I think really helps increase the effectiveness of FBN's product and makes it a really powerful tool.

Definitely check it out! https://www.fbn.com


Two thumbs up. FBN has been doing remarkable progress and have taken innovative approaches to farming and Ag. They really do help farmers. I wish them the very best and hope they go from strength to strength. I really do appreciate what they do.


I am the CTO of Grownetics and we are about to open source our stack. https://grownetics.co/


http://picktrace.com/ (YCS15) was in our batch. Both the founders grew up on a farm and build tools for people to use out in the field like how to accurately keep track the number of baskets of strawberries a worker picked so they get paid the right amount when there's no WiFi or cellular connection.

I always thought it was interesting.


Check https://www.tend.com/ out, this startup has gone public since 2016, I'm one of their beta users. Its a suite that help you make growing plan, keeping track of almost everything needed during your farming processes, your plants, your tasks, when to harvest, your soil test records,... They've been developing some other tools that will eventually help you sell your farm produces. Here's what they say "We’re a small startup that’s passionate about building tools to help organic farmers grow quality food and run successful farming businesses. We started Tend with farmers in mind, and are proud to have team members who’ve farmed throughout the U.S. and Latin America. We’re also fortunate to have a first-class technology and engineering team who’ve spent many years working in startups and larger tech companies. Most of all, we’re proud of our close relationships with the organic and diversified farmers who use Tend to manage their farm."


Hey benj1502 -

I've heard about Tend from my friend farmers but haven't try it out. The features from the website [1] looks like what I need.

[1] https://www.tend.com/page/how-it-works.html

Edit: wow the blogs are really nice https://www.tend.com/blog.html


Give it a try vinicius_ng, lemme know if I can help, I'm quite familiar with it now.


I work at https://www.agrigateone.com/

We aggregate data for growers and buyers of fresh perishables to better facilitate trades.

Must say agri / food is a fascinating industry to work in.

The tech problems don't seem to be well known or often solved when compared to other industries I've worked in...which is both awesome and frustrating haha


@janee - This is an industry I am trying to learn more about and get into as well. Would love to get some advice. Is there a way to get in touch? My email is on my profile if you'd prefer to not leave info on here.


I work at https://tech.vidacycle.com . We are a small startup building a set of tools to monitor vines, soils and fruits. We help farmers to gain knowledge about the ecosystem they manage so they can make better decisions.

What an exciting thread! I've seen really cool projects here


[edit: I overlooked the direct call-out to Indigo in the original post, my mistake. Nevertheless, I'll leave this as perhaps its helpful to others who don't know the company.]

Indigo Agriculture - https://www.indigoag.com/

I worked for a satellite imagery start-up who was acquired by Indigo in December of 2018. I'm obviously biased, but i can genuinely say that the level of innovation taking place throughout this company - towards so many different parts of the agricultural system - has not ceased to astound me since I joined.

They've managed to capture/create/cultivate one of those unique scenarios that rarely happens in any industry: a scenario where all participants benefit. They're helping consumers gain access to healthy, responsibly-sourced food, they're helping to make it profitable for the farmer to provide these foods, and they're helping to make it beneficial to the planet to produce them.

They started as a microbial seed treatment company. By coating seeds with naturally-occurring microbial organisms, these microbes would help crops by making them more resistant to harsh conditions like drought, heat, etc. Kind of like probiotics, but for plants.

Since then, they've expanded into many different parts of the agricultural system, but perhaps their most innovative & potentially impactful contribution is their most recent: the Terraton initiative. They're helping to remove a trillion tons of carbon from the atmosphere by making it financially beneficial for farmers to adopt regenerative agricultural practices to bring this carbon out of the air and into the soil.

I could go on, but the videos and content on their website describe their mission and their work better than I can. I'm really excited about the work we're doing there - I hope you'll think so too.


http://www.bluerivertechnology.com/

Now owned by John Deere. Goal is 10x reduction in chemicals while doubling yields. We’re deep in ml & robotics and our creations scale across the deere fleet touching most of the arable land in the world.


Hi! What is blue river technology’s see and spray tech doing now? It disappeared from Salinas lettuce fields after JD bought them out.


Hey! We’re moving it to row crops to save herbicide. I miss Salinas but stoked with what we’re doing in the Midwest.


I've seen the focus on the thread, fascinating.

The major focus is: To produce more.

I haven't seen one to Waste less. Inverse the balance sheet.


We're talking about synthetically accelerating organic life here.

If the byproduct is cleaner air through photosynthesis generated from renewable power is that really a problem? Isn't that just efficiency?

The concern isn't the waste -- it's that a lot of these industrial growers are building proprietary technology monoliths growing "stuff that looks like food" but isn't actually all that healthy and the public burden is falling on nationalized healthcare systems.

As such - there isn't enough work in the open-source sharing of telemetry data and experience between systems.

This is why industrial ag=tech owned by big global ag companies must be replaced with something that anybody and everybody can access.

The soil on the planet is in serious peril.


I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment.

I guess as long as there is no real cost attached to the waste disposal this is not going to change. We need appropriate policies to nudge the development into this direction.


https://www.parabel.com/ Florida based startup using water lentils to create a future plant-protein platform. Crop doubles in size every 24-36 hours allowing farms to harvest every day. 10x yield compared to soy or pea proteins.


I'm one of the founding partners of AgFunder. You can see see a lot of startups in our annual investor report:

https://agfunder.com/research/agrifood-tech-investing-report...


Hi,

I am looking for people in the image/satellite mapping industry. The idea is to map Indian farmland according to the survey no and provide the data directly to the farmer. Stack the data with the crop, soil, weather, market, buyer and it could be a solution to the whole Agri sector. If it is further mapped with land type data, Land purchase, subsidy, infra development red tape can be reduced to the extreme and the whole process could become transparent.

I have a couple of startups in mind who have the tech platform, but not the combined application stack.

I am looking for someone from a tech background to help with finalizing the whole setup. Connect me over at dishank.zala@gmail.com


Hey I'm the lead roboticist with https://farmwise.io/

We're building autonomous devices for sustainable farming at scale; that means weeding without chemicals, reducing fertilizer utilization and building new methods for planting/harvesting.

For a roboticist this translates to building high quality odometry, actuation and navigation stacks. We have novel backend and real time systems challenges as well. I've worked on autonomous systems for several years now and have seen how effective solid software engineers are at building solutions in the robotics space.

Our company is product focused and has devices operating on farms today, feel free to reach out with any questions.


The big ones I don't see are:

Plenty - Indoor agriculture (raised over $200m)

[https://www.plenty.ag]

Pivot Bio - Nitrogen fixation with engineered microbes

[https://www.pivotbio.com/]


I used to work here: https://www.greensightag.com/

They do autonomous UAVs for agricultural monitoring, using multi-spectral imaging and a computer vision pipeline to detect issues before farmers can.


Hi, I am looking for people in the image/satellite mapping industry. The idea is to map Indian farmland according to the survey no and provide the data directly to farmer. Stack the data with crop, soil, weather, market, buyer and it could be a solution to whole agri sector.

If it is further mapped with land type data, Land purchase, subsidy, infra development red tape can be reduced to the extreme and whole process could become transparent.

I have couple of stratups in mind who have the tech platform, but not the combined application stack.

I am looking for someone from tech backgroud to help with finalizing the whole setup. Connect me over at dishank.zala@gmail.com


https://en.agricool.co is a French startup perfecting its technology to grow fruit (they focus on strawberries) in containers, within cities, using very little water. They raised €25M last year.


My side project is AutoMicroFarm (https://automicrofarm.com). Currently working on https://edible.estate/


Tule helps farmers make irrigation decisions. We install a proprietary research-based sensor in farmers' fields. The sensor measures the water use and water stress of the plants in an entire field. Tule uses the field-scale plant data, as well as cutting-edge artificial intelligence models, to provide farmers with irrigation recommendations. Our customers span from the winemakers who farm California's most prized vineyards to the growers at the largest scale almond operations in the Central Valley. Tule is a profitable company whose mission is to help generations of farmers maximize production and more efficiently manage natural resources.

www.tuletechnologies.com


Hey Tom — nice to see you around. Dan from InnoVint here.


Hi Dan!


You can find it all here. Definitive landscape guide maps for both Farm Agtech and Indoor Agtech. I don’t think they missed a whole lot. Pretty sure there are more than a few that are in stealth mode. But this about sums it up.

1600 companies Agtech landscape map: https://agfundernews.com/2019-06-04-agtech-landscape-2019-16...

1000+ companies indoor Agtech landscape map: http://mixingbowlhub.com/inside-indoor-agtech/


ecoation - https://www.ecoation.com/ - robots for greenhouses (monitoring & analytics) - vancouver

robotany / fifth season - https://www.fifthseasonfresh.com/ - https://www.cmu.edu/energy/news-multimedia/2018/robotany.htm... - vertical greenhouses - Pittsburgh


AeroFarms in Boston are one of the foremost aeroponic indoor food growth facilities, they do some interesting software too:

https://aerofarms.com/


On the farmer to consumer side, I've been using marketwagon for my dairy meat and produce and really like their products and business model. https://marketwagon.com/pages/market-wagon-about-us

Its kinda a mash of Amazon food delivery and community supported agriculture. If you want to see smaller farms thrive, they have a pretty compelling service. So far they are Midwest only but hopefully they can expand, or similar services can start up in other regions.


Cover Crop Exchange https://covercropexchange.com

Providing a marketplace for buyers and sellers of cover crop seeds. We deal with licensing, shipping/logistics, ordering, payouts, etc. Diversify your farming income by growing and selling cover crop seeds.

hybrid85 https:://hybrid85.com

$85/unit Non-GMO (Conventional) seed corn. Maximize your profitability by lowering your input costs. Utilizing off-patent genetics that perform as well as "the big guys".


Oops! Correct link for hybrid85 is:

https://hybrid85.com

(can't find the edit button on hacker news)


www.orisha.io (In french) www.products.orisha.io

We are a modest startup that aims at developping tools for smaller farmers. We developed a greenhouse growing assistant that helps the community-supported agriculture folks.

We are currently considering developping: * Automating irrigation with tensiometers (humidity sensors). And potentially use forecast and solar radiation. * A production management tool * A project to help reduce the use of fossil energy in greenhouse heating

And for the functional programming enthusiasts out there: We are currently hiring !

Contact me for more info: guillaume@orisha.io


I co-founded a beehive monitor startup with my brothers in New Zealand (they run it now): https://hivemind.nz

It's an electronic device that sits underneath your beehives and weighs the amount of honey in the hive, sending data back via satellite modem (because beehives are often remote, so cellular doesn't always work). It also measures a bunch of other important stuff important for bee health: temperature, humidity, bee activity.


I run the product team for https://farmdog.ag/ Our mission is to significantly reduce the use of pesticides.


A long while ago I did LED lighting research (hence my name) and specialized vertical farming techniques which would drastically reduce land usage and resource usage, and could be entirely solar-powered in some parts of the world.

Too bad the owners of that business sold it for cheap and my work somehow got lost. Not like I couldn't recreate it all from my mind, but it certainly isn't in full-scale use today, just trial setups in a couple of countries which might still be operational.


https://www.agrobot.com is developing a robot to pick strawberries. Pretty sophisticated, too.


I'm doing some work for a startup that wants to automate greenhouse climate control.

The software automatically manages lighting, climate, irrigation based on long term growth strategies, real time sensor data and energy prices.

This saves time spent manually managing greenhouse climate, and money due to improved crop and energy management.

We're hiring! Looking for a data scientist with a mind for optimization problems. The Netherlands, Delft region.


You must be jeroen


Maybe I am, maybe I ain't... ;)


Just yesterday I got invited to interview at AgriTask [1].

> An AG-management platform that turns agriculture data into smart tools for planning and decision making.

I don’t know much about them aside from this line from one of their recruiters; check them out if you want.

By the way, they are hiring a couple of remote workers if anyone is interested.

[1] https://www.agritask.com/


Source/go-to link? The website doesn't seem to mention any hiring.


I don’t have a linkable source because I was invited via email by one of their recruiters.

However, if you search the name of the company along with the word “hiring” it returns the following:

https://www.peersight.in/job/agritask-software-engineer

Although it seems that the job has already been fulfilled, according to this post on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/view/1073965883/

Which is weird because they contacted me less than 24 hours ago.


I'm with https://www.agworld.com - a platform that connects farmers with agronomists and other advisors and helps them manage their farm data. Everything with the aim of enabling farmers to make more profitable decisions.

We just had our 10 year anniversary.. it's been a long road but definitely very rewarding!


Speaking as a customer. I want an any sized farmbot. I'd buy that product in a second. I even offered a bounty in the farmbot forums recently:

https://forum.farmbot.org/t/any-size-farmbot-with-a-cash-bou...


I'm a co-founder of biofrack: https://biofrack.com

We use fracking techniques to restructure and amend soil at shallow depths with biochar. This improves drainage, allows for deep application of slow release fertilizer, and is a carbon negative process that sequesters carbon deeper than would ever occur naturally.


Not a startup but Cisco is testing wireless-connected monitoring systems for cows and a robotic milking machine https://www.reuters.com/article/us-telecoms-5g-cows/5g-conne...


BinMeasure is using LIDAR units and some clever feed-shape algorithms to calculate the feed volume remaining in agricultural feed bins. Instead of sending a person out to climb the bins and look in the top (the current method), you get the info on a mobile phone app.

https://www.binmeasure.com/


I’m very interested in hearing more about this - I messaged your team on Facebook yesterday, but haven’t heard back from them yet.

My family is heavily involved in ag, and I have several close friends and relatives involved in the poultry business specifically. I see some ways that this could be marketed both directly to poultry growers and to producers. Producers should be interested in very large deployments, while growers have their own incentives that may not be obvious outside the business.

I’d love if we could chat. You can reach me here, or by email at lyndsy@<my user name>.com


Looks like no one has mentioned Nori: https://nori.com/. They are doing good work around creating a marketplace where you can buy carbon credits. From their site: "Nori’s platform makes it straightforward for companies to pay farmers for storing carbon in soil."


I wonder how many people will actually buy this. Personally, I would rather get a box full of veggies than some internet karma.


It's worth posting this article on this thread for anybody interested why the high tech ag industry is retarded.

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/mit-media-lab-personal-fo...


Here's one I just saw: https://www.blueoceanbarns.com

Elemental Excelerator looks like it has about 10 ag startups: https://elementalexcelerator.com/companies/


One of my clients which I'm proud of, Phytech, is deploying huge number of plant sensors to measure their status and help save water by planning how much to irrigate.

They are doing very well and have huge customers in the US and Australia.

https://youtu.be/MuWRDZEJ934




In europe, https://eagronom.com/ is taking an interesting approach - rather than throw all existing farming practices out with the bathwater, try to build on top of them and modernize to achieve sustainable farming.


https://plantix.net/en/ plantix app, a Berlin based startup is used primarily by farmers in India. It uses computer vision to identify crop nutrient deficiencies and diseases.



If you search for agtech you can find things like this: https://agfundernews.com/2019-06-04-agtech-landscape-2019-16...


Here is my ad: Corang.info is the world first fully sustainable property development. It combines renewable energy with food production and housing. The project has 'negative emissions'.

If it works we plan to make lots of similar projects in Australia and Asia.


I run www.sunnyirrigation.com in Nairobi. We originate solar irrigation loans to smallhold farmers, so it is a combination of agtech and fintech. Growth areas in credit-model building, IoT data processing, in short - we heart engineers :)


Infarm https://infarm.com/ offer indoor farming to restaurants and supermarkets. They are opening a lot of new locations in Europe right now (mainly in Germany).


My friend just started working at Agricycle global. https://www.agricycleglobal.com/

One of their products is a charcoal for your grill made out of coconut shells.


Atfarm - https://at.farm - uses satellite data to provide precision fertilization maps for farmers across the globe. (Disclaimer: involvement in the setup)


TerrAvion (W14): https://www.terravion.com

We're what happened when drone companies realized you couldn't fly the entire corn belt with a drone.


Halter.co.nz has built smart collars for grazing animals that record their data and also automatically move them. Really ambitious project that will change grass based (healthy meat) farming if they nail it.


Others have sold "smart collars" for years.

Compared to a Lely robotic milking system [2], which uses "smart collars" to identify the cows, that's primitive.

[1] https://modernfarmer.com/2016/01/wearable-devices-livestock/

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ozhU7h8vbE


From the basis of reducing capital outlay, increasing pasture utilisation, improving omega3:omega6 fatty acid ratios in steroid and antibiotic free meat, and maximising productive use of marginal land - "primitive" is exactly the correct term for what Halter is aiming to achieve.

Importing corn, to feed a cow in a shed, then milk it three times a day, using a robot that breaks down regularly, and coupling it with a collar, that doesn't detect estrous more effectively than a primitive farmer who just observes his cows and isn't an expert in the maintenance of 10 robots - is the current state of modern agricultural technology.

Unfortunately the Lely salesman, the bank manager, and the farmer are unaware that maintaining multiple complex robots on farms is not profitable and that one state of the art robot to 50 cows or so is a waste of capital that only exists due to farmer subsidies and the tediousness of milk-harvesting.

Halter has the lead in this space currently because

Their collars remotely move the animals - this is a good thing when those animals evolved to graze pasture. The collar does anything the other collars do to a higher standard plus a lot of other things which are important to farming grass profitably.

Also while those Lely robots are uneconomic presently - at some point in the next 5 years - a single robot that sits in the cups on side of a rotary cowshed and milks 350 cows per hour will come on the market.

So the halter collar will move the cows to the pasture and back to the cowshed and one cost effective robot will milk them. Producing healthy food at a lower cost which is good for everybody except for subsidised corn farmers who are I feel are slowly poisoning the world.

They have some fairly decent backing, I think they secured 8m in their last round. The founder of Rocket Lab sits on their board. They are certainly doing interesting work in the agricultural space, and there is nothing wrong with primitive. We evolved for 600 million years or so and using technology that respects rather than exploits evolution is generally healthy.

The dairy-farmer in video [2] gets a subsidy from the government as does the corn farmer who supplies corn for his cows. The thing is the dairy-farmer would make more money - and everyone would be healthier if there was no subsidised corn in the system. Also one of the reasons that New Zealand farmers are innovative and produce healthier food from pasture that is cost competitive globally including delivery is, that they don't get any subsidies. None. Nothing. They eat what they kill from a natural economic and environmental system.

The good ol boys and the Europeans run farms in protected markets that are only economically viable with their taxpayers topping them up. Doesn't read like a fertile space for innovation.


I've been impressed by some of the computer vision work Aerobotics are doing. EG counting and sizing citrus from drones, pest detection etc. Super solid data science team, from the chats I've had.


I thought this product sounds interesting:

https://www.sprowtlabs.com/

To achieve malting (the germination and kilning of barley etc) on a small scale.


https://tanibox.com we are doing farm management and monitoring platform. We released an open-source software too called Tania.


https://www.mytrev.com/

Trev is a farm reporting tool to provide insight into farm operations and performance.

Startup based in New Zealand.


One that I heard about last year and have been following – https://www.smallrobotcompany.com/


These guys are making an apple picking robot that's pretty bad ass: https://www.abundantrobotics.com


Nice, that's cool, is that using a vacuum pump for the picking part?


Yup.


You could look at sustainability accelerators. For example, my company participated in the Techstars - Nature Conservancy accelerator. Almost 900 sustainability startups applied.


https://heavywateraero.com/ Heavy water aero is trying to do some pretty cool stuff.


Strider (strider.ag), where I work at, is a segment leader in Latin America, and FarmShots (YC alumn) (farmshots.com) and Cropio (about.cropio.com) are some other examples.


Plenty - Indoor vertical farming that's already in the California market. http://www.plenty.ag


WaterBit — https://Waterbit.com — real hardware deployed on real farms.


https://www.agerpoint.com high-resolution crop data through LiDAR


https://www.smart-ag.com/ - Autonomous tractors


* The Climate Corporation

* Granular

* Farmer's Business Network

* Inari

* Pattern Ag

* Solum

* Arable Labs


Worth noting that The Climate Corporation is owned by Monsanto which in turned is owned by Bayes.


and Granular is owned by Corteva (previously DuPont Pioneer) which is was just spun out from the Dow-DuPont merger



Farmers Business Network - https://www.fbn.com


https://pycno.co - soil sensors and IoT stuff



Us at InnoVint have made an app for wine production, as well as vineyard analytic tools.

We’re hiring too!

www.innovint.us



Picking squishy fruits without bruising them is apparently quite difficult


www.localrootsfarms.com

Shipping container-based vertical farms, primarily for leafy greens


Check out agfundernews.com


Check out growers.


following...very, very exciting.


arable.com




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