Deveron, which sends pilots to fly drones over farmland on request, will gain precision agriculture capabilities by bringing Veritas’s team of agronomists, plant scientists, and data scientists onto its staff. In particular, Deveron will now be able to offer its farmer clients specific recommendations and prescriptions for the application of inputs such as seed and fertilizer on their fields.
“When we first started building our drone network for agriculture, we were somewhat naive in thinking that farmers would be able to generate their own insights from our imagery data,” David MacMillan, CEO of Deveron told AgFunderNews. “Lots of our customers were saying ‘this imagery is great and useful, but can you help me write a seed script from it, or variable rate fertilizer scripts?’ So we started working with Veritas three years ago to support some of our customers with Veritas’ scripts and Veritas customers were also ordering our imagery. And when the option came up to acquire them, I immediately saw the amazing synergies.”
Deveron, a microcap listed on the Canadian stock exchange, is paying $320,000 and 3.75 million shares for a 90.1% stake in Veritas from its founding shareholder, the ag retailer South West Ag. The deal values Veritas at around $1.5 million. When the deal closes, South West Ag will own a 9.9% equity holding in Deveron. South West Ag was 50% owned by Cargill until a recent decision by the commodities trading house to sell its retail businesses in Ontario, Canada. That decision essentially enabled Veritas to move beyond South West Ag and explore expanding its business outside of Ontario.
“It was a sort of amazing thing to happen as we wouldn’t have been available without this corporate restructuring to scale our business outside of South West Ontario,” said Aaron Breimer, business manager of Veritas.
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Veritas uses “every piece of data we can get our hands on,” including RGB imagery, yield data, elevation from yield maps, population counts based on machine learning algorithms to give farmers variable-rate prescriptions for seeding, fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and nitrogen, according to Breimer.
“A big thing in figuring out of prescriptions are working is by using applied data — the actual rates that inputs have been applied — not just the prescription data,” he said.
“I’m really interested in how different data layers work, and something we’re beta testing and bringing to market now is what we’re calling ‘soil limiting maps’ that take data layers and correlate them to soil maps so you’re able to understand what is limiting a nutrient or physical property in the crop,” Breimer added.
Both Veritas and Deveron are agnostic to the platform their data is pulled from or used on, both working with the Climate, My John Deere, and Pioneer’s Encirca platforms extensively depending on which their clients use. “What I really don’t want to do is build another platform, but build insights that we can pump into the platforms that our farmers are currently using,” he added. “We all face the same competition; mother nature and limits of the soil.”
But Veritas has had to evolve its business in the face of the development of these platforms that now enable farmers to create their own variable rate prescriptions. There is still plenty of work to be done in validating these prescriptions, according to Breimer.
“When Veritas first started doing data analytics, one of our most popular services was comparing how seed variety A compared to variety B, but with MyJohnDeere, farmers can do it on their own, so we had to evolve into prescriptions. And now that’s becoming easier, we have to evolve again and now farmers send us their prescriptions they’ve created for us to validate if they will work.”
For MacMillan, integrating a team of leading agronomists will bring not just a deep understanding of the fields to Deveron’s business, but also an understanding of farmers’ concerns that the company could hope to allay with their services.
“I’m excited to be focusing on the technology with a core background in agronomy.”
Deveron will continue to provide drone data acquisition as before, where clients log into the company’s order management system and upload their field boundaries, from MyJohnDeere or Climate if they use those platforms, and order a drone flight within a 24 hour period. The company then sends back the imagery.
The acquisition is expected to close in Q3 2018.