Commercializing Agritech Innovations: 5 Takeaways  

Jul 17, 2020
3 mins | 750 words
By: Liam Flanagan

Liam FlanaganTechnology will transform the farms of tomorrow, from IoT sensors, robots, drones, to mobile apps and data insights. No matter your solution, it needs to be connected to the cloud, turned into data, and translated into insights. Wise CEOs and CTOs must be laser-focused on developing their core value proposition and be adept at leveraging third-party infrastructure solutions to go to market with speed.  

Finding it hard to sell your standalone technology to farmers already overwhelmed with too many solutions? Many startups are now integrating their solutions with others to address a chain of value propositions instead.  

In today’s connected world, whether you are developing integrated products or testing compatibility and data load, a fully integrated testbed equipped with 5G, next-generation networks, and communication protocols is becoming a necessity. Thankfully someone has developed such facilities, and you just need to learn about the possibilities.  

Recently, Invest Ottawa hosted its first agritech webinar, Agritech Innovation: Commercializing Tech Solutions for the Future. This session brought together agritech experts, investors, entrepreneurs, and other supporters to discuss the industry of agritech and where it’s headed. Read on to learn our top 5 takeaways from this event:  

1.       Yesterday’s agritech  is today’s big data opportunity

Data analysis has long been a part of agriculture and continues to this day. Throughout the history of agriculture, crop information has existed as personal knowledge, written documents, and now finally, as digital data points. Today, any decision made on a farm can be measured via sensors, drones, and more. These measurements can be compared to resulting crop yields, and farmers can determine the inputs that result in the highest efficiency. The technology used to predict this success will not be replacing farming experts but will be used by those experts to monitor massive amounts of data, as explained by event keynote, Claudia Roessler of Microsoft Azure Global Engineering.  

Shifting industry focus to AI, Machine Learning, and other data analysis methods will enable the next generation of value creation in the agriculture world, from simulations to personalized produce development. This shift is a crucial one for farms, entrepreneurs, and partner organizations to know and understand.  

2.       Partnerships can help youget to the next level 

Startups should get involved with valuable partners as early as possible to expand their networks and get connected with the customers and resources needed to take the next step, according to Radicle Growth VC’s Kirk Haney. Investors, agriculture suppliers, governments, and others with domain expertise make great partners, and speaking with them provides free consulting that would otherwise be unavailable. This sentiment carried through each of the other speakers on the panel as well, including Joel Bouvier of Farm Credit Canada and Ketan Kaushish, Co-founder and CEO of Ukko Agro, who partnered with CENGN to validate the company’s analytics engine early on. You can learn about Ukko Agro and CENGN’s partnership here.  

3.       Get to know your ideal customer  

Spend as much time as possible with your ideal clientsuggested Kirk HaneyIf that’sfarmer, visit their farm and hear their pain points firsthandTalk to them and watch how they operate to get a better understanding of their experiences. This knowledge will ensure youragritech startup’s solution matches the struggles of the client, thereby increasing its chances of adoption.  

4.       Agritech adoption is challenging 

Tim Warland, panellist and Program Manager at Invest Ottawa, said it best: ”No customer wants to hear that they’re gonna be the first ones to try a technology.” Asking any customer, especially those with such a close connection between initial decision-making and ultimate success, to adopt new technology may be met with opposition. A farmer’s farm is their livelihood; asking them to adjust their workflow or pause operations to adopt new technology is directly linked to their chances of success. Agritech startups should navigate this challenge by providing trial usage of their solution at a decreased cost to encourage farms to give the software a shot. In the long run, however, you must try to find the difficult ”sweet spot” through experimenting where freemium can stop and charging full price can begin. The answer is different for every product and user. 

Be sure to learn more about how you may access no cost 5G testbed and next-generation servers to accelerate your technology development, validation and scaling and contact Tim with your questions.  

5.       Don’t fall in love with your solution 

“Iterate as many times as you can until you solve the right problem,” said Ketan Kaushish in our webinar. Not being over-committed to a single product, and instead of being over-committed to solving a specific problem, is a theme that runs through most kinds of tech startup methodology. In the agritech space specifically, this is of the utmost importance, because as mentioned above, your products can directly impact a farmer’s livelihood. If a product isn’t solving a problem, it is less risky for a farmer to revert to the “old way” than spend money on a product they don’t need. Being proactive and continually improving the product while not creating too many work stoppages or bottlenecks is crucial.  


About the Author 

Liam Flanagan is the Program Coordinator, Venture Development with Invest Ottawa. Liam helps tech companies take the next step. From start-up to scale-up, to stay-up. 

 

Invest Ottawa Hosts Free Webinars and Virtual Events. Check out our calendar.

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