Upstream Ag Insights - June 18th 2023
Essential news and analysis for agribusiness leaders
Welcome to the 173rd Edition of Upstream Ag Insights!
Index for the week:
AgTech Plant Health Startup Croptix Announces Milestone Investment Led by Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA)
In-Cab Systems Taking ‘Baby Step’ Towards More AI
Bayer Crop Science and Regenerative Ag
Bunge, Viterra Will Merge to Form $34 billion Agri-trading Powerhouse
Why is it so difficult to predict the future of agriculture?
Data Health: What it is and Why it Matter to the Ag Input Supply Chain
Agoro Carbon Marks Two-Year Milestone Totaling $15 Million in Payments
The Secret to Gaining a Positively Unfair Advantage In Your Go-To Market
Latin America AgriFoodTech Investment Report 2023
AI at Work: What People Are Saying
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If you are new or were forwarded this e-mail, my name is Shane Thomas and this is Upstream Ag Insights, a weekly newsletter for agribusiness leaders breaking down the newest innovations and business dynamics in the agriculture industry.
1. AgTech Plant Health Startup Croptix Announces Milestone Investment Led by Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA) - Business Wire
Croptix, a precision agtech platform for in-field early detection of crop health, announces the first close of their Series Seed round led by strategic investor and regenerative agriculture leader, Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA), with continued participation from 1855 Capital and Ben Franklin Technology Partners. With this investment, Croptix will accelerate the development and use of its patented in-field sensing technology. This disruptive platform enables the detection of crop health faster and easier than legacy practices, resulting in improved crop quality and yield providing better financial returns for farmers.
I am a huge fan of testing to understand plant and soil health. I used many variations of soil tests and different tissue testing labs and methods as an agronomist.
Specific to tissue testing, they can deliver insight nutrient uptake trends, understand where an offensive nutrition application may make sense or diagnose unknown issues that are visually showing on the plant. However, they have shortcomings, as I’ve discussed before. The turn around time form taking the sample to getting results and enabling action is typically 48 hours at the best of times, with timelines extending out over numerous days. On top, tissue testing is imperfect for multiple reasons— nutrients do not accrue evenly throughout the plant, different conditions encourage inconsistent readings and some nutrients are mobile vs. others being immobile within plants leading to suboptimal results or difficult to interpret results that don’t deliver actionable insights.
This is where Croptix comes in.
Croptix has built a plant health assessment to eliminate the aforementioned logistical challenges and performance limitations of tissue testing.
Its sensor technology allows for the real-time measurement of plant nutrient make-up along with the presence of pathogens in the field. This delivers better crop input management decisions.
Croptix uses diffuse reflectance spectroscopy which allows the company to do a better job of taking into account the nutrient make up of the entire plant. They include granted patents around this capability too.
Croptix also reduces the cost to acquire data and information. Today, there is a limitation on the amount of in-season data plant nutrient make up information that is available due to cost, inconsistency and logistical challenges. Croptix is a step-change in cost reduction for data points that can deliver more informed models and decision making tools to farmers and agronomists over time.
Currently the technology has been used in crops like citrus, apples, soybeans, potatoes, and cassava.
Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA) is a notable investor as well. A trailblazer in the regenerative ag movement, they have been bringing holistic nutrient management strategies to farmers in North America for well over a decade. AEA also has a consulting portion of their business and we can see where this tool further enables their consultants to establish a deeper understanding of their customers crops. Given Croptix has working systems available today, AEA as an investor also is likely to become a customer.
2. In-Cab Systems Taking ‘Baby Step’ Towards More AI - Crop Life
I believe that the successful implementors of artificial intelligence in agriculture will be effective integrators of the technology into platforms and work flows that already exist.
The assumptions stem from my view that the biggest unlock of value with AI will come from a combination of delivering better outcomes (eg: lower costs, improved agronomic outcomes) while decreasing cognitive load. This will occur where farmers and agribusiness professionals already are. In-cab software or digital enablement software for example.
While the article title states “baby steps”, in the context of in-cab we already see AI integration in spades and it is only growing. Equipment companies have made this an imperative for more than a decade already.
Artificial intelligence underpins equipment automation and autonomy and already delivers immense value in the cab with auto-boom height adjustments on sprayers, auto-shut off or harvest loss AI as base examples.
What is really exciting is the effort to further enable this, such as John Deere’s satellite strategy or CNH Industrials mission “to make iron smarter to solve our customers challenges”. Engineering is important, but increasingly the point of differentiation for equipment will be “smart” while “dumb” equipment will be commoditized. This means not just baby steps, but significant leaps in AI deployment to help farmers manage some of their biggest challenges, such as labor.