Software companies are cropping up all over the place, with platforms that offer farmers and agricultural companies better data and insights on their fields and business operations. Many use sophisticated image analysis from satellites or drones, or cull field-level data from connected sensors.
Spanish startup ec2ce is taking a different approach: mathematics.
“Producers, especially in high-value crops, have invested a lot in data gathering. They have a lot of data. But they don’t know what to do with it. They need mathematical insights,” Pedro Carrillo, CEO of ec2ce, tells AFN.
The company, which specializes in high-value fruit and vegetable crops, currently serves a number of high-profile clients in Europe and Latin America, including Sovena Group in Spain, supporting its olive oil business, Spanish strawberry producer SurExport, Peruvian blueberry producer Camposol, and German hops producer Barth-Haas Group. Though still a young company, it’s reached a break-even point, doing about €500,000 in business annually.
Now, it has closed a second seed funding round to help it double revenues by next year and support expansion into the US. Prominent angel investors invested in the rounf including Max Rudman, the founder of SteelBrick (acquired by Salesforce in 2016. ec2ce declined to discuss specifics of the deal but said the financing was larger than its €600,000 first seed round in 2016 and backed by a number of individual investors as well as agrochemical companies.
Running the numbers
ec2ce’s platform culls data from a variety of existing sources like satellite indices and weather reports, and then uses sophisticated algorithms to provide customers with forecasts for everything from crop production to pest control. Its analytics are meant to help companies maximize profit foremost, but also to help them improve environmental sustainability through water and treatment management.
“Most of our customers are very concerned about the sustainability of their crops. They have requirements to comply with, because of regulation. But they also face consumer demand. Consumers are very concerned about sustainability,” Carillo says.
To date, ec2ce’s customers are spread across Europe and Latin America. In spite of regional differences in its customers, most are looking for the same insights, Carillo says.
“If we talk about berries, berry producers want to know what quantity they’ll have in four weeks because they have to make decisions about labor, logistics, and exports. If they’re to have an over-production, they need to know that to determine pricing,” he explains.
Olive growers care about the oil content of their crop. Almond growers care about density. Everyone is concerned about maximizing productivity and pest control.
“We don’t make recommendations, we just tell them when and where they’re going to have pests above a certain threshold so that they can time when they spray,” Carillo adds. “Producers have to spray according to regulations, so we provide a detailed map so they can plan three to four weeks ahead.”
Indeed, ec2ce’s predictive pest control platform currently covers 400,000 hectares.
Poised for growth
Though ec2ce has only been working on its platform for three years, Carillo says its customer demand is healthy, thanks largely to the early recruitment of major producers.
“The relationship that ec2ce has developed with major agricultural customers around the world is a great validation of their solution and potential for technology like artificial intelligence in the agricultural sector”, said Max Rudman, one of ec2ce’s angel investors, in a press release.
But climate change is also a major contributing factor in demand for ec2ce’s analytics services, explains Carillo.
“The producers we support are experts. But the rules have completely changed now because of climate change. They need these kinds of tools,” he says. “We’re trying to help them tackle the uncertainty.”