Editor’s Note: Gotham Analytics is raising $2 million in Series A funding on AgFunder.
Internet and cellular connectivity is not always a luxury the world’s farmers can rely upon, whether in the US or in Indonesia. Often located in remote parts of the world, miles from the nearest town, agribusinesses will complain that at least part of their land is without basic connectivity, let alone 3G or 4G.
This is a fact that many startups and technology companies building digital precision agriculture technologies are quickly learning. The majority of digital agriculture products and remote sensors on the market today require connecting to the cloud for data analysis and storage. Lacking connectivity can, therefore, be a real limitation for the farmers trying their services; without it, farmers are often unable to upload data from their sensors or enter manual insights.
Some companies are trying to handle this connectivity issue by building offline computing capabilities for when farmers don’t have a connection, but these solutions still rely on a networked connection to sync with other systems and the cloud and without connectivity in the field it’s either manual and/or cost prohibitive with infrastructure to collect the data.
One startup, Gotham Analytics, is providing a whole, integrated solution that not only tackles connectivity, but also solves another issue facing remote operations: power supply.
Since 2009, the New Jersey-based company has been building mesh networks with remote devices powered by solar and connected to satellites. Gotham Analytics can connect virtually any hardware device to its network — from soil sensors to weather stations — by plugging them into its proprietary adaptors in the field. The base cells can connect to most any satellite constellations with their satellite modem and are powered by solar energy. In turn, they can power any devices or sensors connected to them (getting power to sensors in the field is often a problem). They can also be connected to cheaper, lightweight nodes, also solar-powered, extending the reach of the network.
Gotham’s network doesn’t stop there. Through software installed on each base cell, the company can read data from any device. It does this through the electrical signals given off by each device, regardless of the manufacturer. The data is then transmitted through the network via satellite and fed into Gotham’s software program and customer-facing dashboard for analytics. Reading and processing data from multiple data sources is a common challenge for farm management software companies, but Gotham’s technology is relatively simple, according to Yogi Sookhu, founder and CEO of the business.
“What we did was looked for the common factor among sensors and that was their electrical signals,” said Sookhu. “So we interpret these raw analog and digital values on each device and then convert them into a usable format for data analytics and presentation on a dashboard.”
Gotham can use this link to transmit information back to devices too, opening up the potential to automate the activity of certain hardware such as irrigators or tide gates.
Gotham’s network opens up a world of opportunity for the precision agriculture market, which is set to be worth $7.8 billion by 2022, but is also a game-changer for large multinational agribusinesses. These businesses will often have land holdings and operations in remote parts of the world that are managed by multiple smallholder farmers, but where communication is very limited to local partners and physical visits.
Gotham Analytics enables these businesses to connect these remote farms into their supply chains, to monitor their activities on a daily basis, and to gain regular insights from their operations to improve processes. Already the startup has a multi-year contract with a leading global agribusiness that has operations in the palm oil industry.
Gotham Analytics is not just for agriculture, however. The company has existing customers in other industries — some of more than 6 years — primarily in the utilities and infrastructure sectors. These include TransCanada, PSE&G and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. In these sectors, Gotham’s technology is being used to monitor tide gates, back up critical equipment at substations, or provide thermal imagery from dams. Gotham Analytics believes the flood control market alone is worth at least $2 billion, and the utility substation automation market is expected to reach $4.3B by 2020.
“Our flood control system in New Jersey is filling the gap for timely information pre- and post-storm conditions. The systems have been invaluable and has endured Hurricane Sandy and Irene which devastated large parts of the North East. In addition, other monitoring equipment maintained by government and private agencies failed during this time, but we remained online,” said Sookhu.
How did the company get to where it is today? The whole idea came to Sookhu after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. With a background as a software engineer and in aerospace and defense at Raytheon Solipsys, Sookhu wanted to find a tool that could help manage another similar attack, or even help to prevent one.
“I knew we couldn’t use cellular as that got clogged immediately after 9/11 so that’s where satellites came in, and solar was an obvious solution to potential for power outage,” he said.
Sensors came into the equation as he thought the air quality surrounding dangerous materials, such as a bomb, could be monitored, producing alerts if anything changed. So he needed to integrate multiple sensors into one connected network that could be powered in any situation.
While the military potential of the technology is still viable, Sookhu found immediate needs for the same underlying technology in the environmental arena working with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (now the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority), to help operate tide gates in New Jersey, and the business grew from there. It is now a high technology business serving large enterprise customers in precision agriculture, utilities and infrastructure with many more markets and applications on the horizon.
The company has grown organically to date with no sales or marketing, winning big contracts from enterprise customers.
Today, Gotham Analytics is raising a $2 million Series A round on AgFunder to fulfill existing orders, establish a presence in customer geographies and expand its engineering team.