Farming may seem simple to us naive city folk, but make no mistake: it’s getting increasingly high-tech as the agricultural industry figures out new, better ways to cope with and manage trying conditions and do business better.
Agworld, a Perth-based startup that helps farmers and agronomists connect and share data in order to better manage the crop production cycle, counts 17,000 of Australia’s estimated 30,000 farmers as clients.
Launched in 2009, the platform is available across mobile and web. Focusing on the idea that farming is done in the field and not in the office, it allows users to map out farms on interactive geospatial maps, collect data while in the field, create detailed season plans, have instant access to a huge library of information on crops, pests, and products, and check a farm’s financials.
Marcus Figueroa of Agworld said the platform has been developed over the years through collaboration with clients. The initial growth came primarily through word of mouth, proving that the agricultural industry was hungry for innovation.
“We believe the continued growth is because the people within our market generally work on tight margins and are time poor and so our product enables them to manage information in real time on the go. What was once work done in the office at night is now done in field during the day, delivering real time results for the next decision,” Figueroa said.
The startup, now tracking 16 million hectares of cropland across Australia, New Zealand, the US, South Africa, and Chile, was launched when co-founder and CEO Doug Fitch realised that he was often unable to consider and minimise risks to his farm as he didn’t have the right information on hand at the right time.
Fitch and co-founder Chris Ramsey worked on developing a model for Agworld themselves before hiring a software developer and trialling a database-oriented model with a number of farmers and agronomists across Western Australia’s wheat belt. It may seem like ancient technology now, but the first iterations of the software saw users input data using digital pens and dot matrix paper.
Agworld first launched into the broad acre market, which Fitch was most familiar with, before moving into other markets like cotton, viticulture, and other horticulture crops. International expansion also came quickly.
“[We] soon realised that assisting in the management of agronomic and financial risk and the need to increasing crop production was a global issue, and so we extended our reach into South Africa, New Zealand, and the USA as we had a high level of acceptance,” Figueroa said.
“We focused on English speaking countries from a product perspective, and where we saw similar market needs – not wants – to those in Australia.”
The startup has now launched an Apple Watch app, and expects agronomists and farmers managing large-scale operations to be among the first adopters.
“These people have a lot going on everyday, decisions that need to be made are usually high cost, technical, done in a small window of time and they must be right, so this is just another device that will assist with the information management in a noisy and sometimes adverse environment,” Figueroa said.
Agworld raised a $6 million Series C round last year, which brought the total capital raised by the startup to $12 million.
The startup will be looking to push its growth in North America over the coming months, while also strengthening its product offering.
Figueroa said, “One of our key goals is to keep improving the product through customer feedback supported by system analytics. We also aim to deliver a new design and approach to the use of spatial information in a simple way.”
Image: CEO Doug Fitch