This week, farming business is taking over the Waldorf in New York City, and brings with it investors, experts and innovators of the ag space.
The Global AgInvesting Conference is holding the event for its sixth year, and is hosting 115 speakers from over 100 agribusiness companies this week. AgFunder had the chance to sit down with the CEO of Hortau to give an inside look at just one of the conference’s many innovative attendees.
“Investing in farming is growing,” said Jocelyn Boudreau, CEO of the early-stage company, Hortau. “We need to feed more people and it’s a huge challenge, but a huge opportunity… And it’s not just us–different technologies like ours make it possible for us to be up to the challenge.”
Hortau, an agtech company based in San Luis Obispo, CA, has a dirty claim to fame. Using patented soil sensors that measure soil tension, or the ability for root systems to collect water from the soil, Hortau is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) for farmers seeking more efficient water management through using soil sensors. Conventional solutions measure soil moisture, but do not reflect the porous quality of the soil. Hortau does just that.
“You have to center the decision around the crop, not the soil,” Boudreau said. “That’s the edge. It’s a subtle thing, but it makes a world of a difference.”
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Founded in 2002 by Boudreau, an agricultural engineer with an M.Sc. in Soil Physics, and Dr. Jean Caron, agronomist, Ph.D, the company uses three probes buried at different depths in the soil to record and report real-time data on soil conditions. The data receiving station then beams the information back to the platform on the farmer’s cell phone, alerting him or her if the water level is out of range.
“We see things are accelerating, and we want to keep the lead,” Boudreau said, when asked why he is in attendance at the conference. “We’re a type of new technology in a new industry.”
Earlier this month, Hortau received $3.5 million in funding from Avrio, and Boudreau says they are now ready to commercially scale their products. Already with hundreds of customers predominantly in the US and Canada, the platform saves 25-30 percent of energy and water for the average farmer using its platform.
The total cost for a farmer to implement the service falls somewhere between 20-50 dollars per acre. After the first 3 years, the farmer owns the equipment, and the cost drops to about 5 dollars per acre.
“It’s a simple thing,” said Boudreau. “This conference is about investment groups and diversifying into agriculture. There’s a trend to invest in ag right now…. If you don’t manage water as an investor, then it’s a huge risk. We’re providing a solution for that. We had a lot of people at the booth and we’re gaining traction.”
FEATURED PHOTO: Credit to Hortau