An Israeli company is targeting small to medium sized farms with its sensor, machine-learning analytics and software technologies after noticing that some 10 million farms in the U.S. and Europe were underserved by the growing number of precision agriculture services on offer.
Farm Dog, a startup headquartered in a converted chicken coop outside of Tel Aviv, was founded earlier this year to target these small and medium sized farms — 150 hectares and less in Europe and 500 acres and less in the US — in an effort to democratize precision agriculture.
“The fact is, most technologies that help farmers grow more with less are only available to the largest of farms,” said Liron Brish, chief executive of Farm Dog. “This leaves over 10 million farms in the US and Europe and millions more around the world searching for solutions to maintain their competitiveness.”
Farm Dog has completed various pilots in Israel and the U.S. and has now raised $750,000 in seed funding to grow its team and enhance its technology. lool Ventures, an Israeli firm, led the round and has played a part in incubating the company this far, according to Brish.
Not only does Farm Dog promise cheaper equipment to other sensor and precision ag tools on the market, but the platform is specifically designed for smaller farms. Farms of this size will often grow specialty crops or have a different mode of operation to larger farms, argues Brish. “Many of them probably don’t have the highest tech tractor with lots of sensors on it; they might just have GPS,” he said. “So we are not basing our service on data collection from tractors, but will have to create it ourselves using in-field sensors.”
To this end, farmer can buy the ‘Dog Pack’, which consists of soil sensors, climate units and a communications unit to collect the data. Farm Dog hardware might not be as high grade as more expensive options, but combined with the software platform’s algorithms, which are designed to cope with this level of accuracy, Farm Dog will be able to provide an insightful overall analysis of the land, according to Brish.
As well as Iool’s support, Farm Dog is affiliated with tech giant Intel’s Internet-of-Things (IoT) Innovation Lab in Haifa, according to Brish, who previously worked at management consultancy McKinsey & Company. Other members of the Farm Dog team used to work in Israel’s intelligence community and bring a range of expertise to the new business such as in satellite imagery and data, but also in farming, agronomy, post-harvest and IoT. Between them, the team has also worked at cloud-based website service Wix, IoT analytics company AGT International and farm-to-fork restaurants.
The company expects to return to the market with a Series A round during the first half of 2016 around the same time as the commercialization of its first generation of sensors.
“We also have a few products in the pipeline that leverage data sources other than our sensors that we would like to release to small and medium sized farmers even earlier,” said Brish. “In many parts of the US, it is has been and will continue to be a tough year and we want to help as early and as best as we can.”
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