There is no shortage of farm management software platforms in the marketplace. It’s become one of the most saturated segments of agri-foodtech, contributing the largest number of deals of any category, according to our recent Farm Tech Investment Report. And it’s one of the most mature; it contributed agtech’s first digital unicorn exit with Climate Corporation’s sale to Monsanto in 2013 and last year, AgSync, IntelliFarms, Atlas Team, AgDNA, Decisive Farming, CropMetrics, and Greenbook were all acquired, according to AgFunder’s 2019 Agri-Food Tech Investing Report. Many of these platforms have been trying to help farmers address some long-standing problems like labor shortages and communicating with a farm team even before the global Covid-19 pandemic added extra pressure.
One budding early-stage company that recently added its technology to the farm software mix is Farmer’s Hive.
“We have built a remote monitoring platform to combat the lack of farm employees available to farmers for various reasons. This has become more important now more than ever with stricter immigration policies and Covid-19 social distance standards,” Thomas Noonan, company director and co-founder of the startup, told AFN. “ For example, a blueberry, grape, or crop farmer needs to know that his 100 or 1,000 acres are well watered. Farmer’s Hive soil moisture sensors provide an accurate & reliable account of this information online in real-time, relieving the need for physical checks by an employee that they don’t have.”
The startup’s technology uses lightweight wireless hardware sensor nodes connected to a software as a service platform via the local mobile network. The sensors and platform provide access to real-time information remotely, allowing the user to make informed decisions to save time and money.
Soft-launched in December 2019, the startup is currently at the commercialization stage with paid and unpaid customers throughout the US and Canada. The Vancouver-based startup was recently listed on Rocket Builders’ Emerging Rocket List for Agri-Food 2020.
What sets Farmer’s Hive apart from other farm management systems is its incorporation of traceability considerations, according to Noonan. The global pandemic has now only emphasized the importance of understanding one’s supply chain, but it’s also placed a renewed emphasis on food safety; many consumers are more concerned than ever about where their food came from and who may have touched it.
“We have been working with GS1 Canada to follow the correct global guidelines and standards to provide a safe and easy place for farmers and food producers to log each food, how the food was made, and where the food came from via QR code. The information recorded through different hands (transport, etc.) is logged and supported through uploading official documentation. Now the purchaser such as a store manager or customs officer can instantly verify the food by scanning the QR code on a smartphone in real-time before it lands on their shelf or country. The end consumer will also have this information instantly available to them via QR code taking them to the product homepage providing relevant information,” Noonan explains.
We caught up with Noonan to learn more about his company and its vision.
What is your technology and what is it trying to solve?
Farmer’s Hive is a solution in the form of IoT technology. In a time where labor is hard to come by and climate change presents unique challenges for the modern farmer, we utilize sensors to record real-time data and activities in different areas on the farm for the purpose of analysis & predictions to action. For example, the blueberry farmer has a vast amount of land & trees to monitor, which means the farmer or employees have to drive around the farmland daily to ensure the blueberries have water. This burns fuel and expensive labor rates.
Farmer’s Hive provides affordable wireless soil moisture sensors that can be placed in specific areas to monitor the farm. When set thresholds are exceeded (eg. soil moisture becomes too low) push notifications via text message/email are sent to the people responsible for irrigation. This ensures the optimum amount of water is provided to the blueberries trees. The historical record of data helps farmers understand the trend to resolve future inefficiencies. The ROI is conserving water & labor to produce an ideal & profitable yield.
The plug and play sensor nodes (AGT100-M $399USD & AGT150-M $599USD) are ordered through our online store and delivered within 30 days along with a personal login to the platform. The farmer can reveal real-time information such as micro-climate measurements (temperature, humidity, soil moisture & temperature, CO2, O3, and much more) or track exact locations and activities of their livestock and vehicles.
Who is your target customer?
Our customer is the farmer or grower who recognizes IoT as the most affordable and efficient way to access & record real-time intelligence on the farm to better prepare for the day, weeks & months ahead. If we use war as the analogy, the side with intelligence is the side that will succeed. Farmer’s Hive provides that intelligence. We work hard with Argitech companies, Seed and farm equipment suppliers, greenhouse builders, distributors, and many more to get the word out to farmers and growers alike.
Have you made any changes to your product related to Covid-19?
We have updated access and installation to the product without any physical interaction. Farmer’s Hive provides a one-step online purchase for preconfigured devices capable of shipping to the US, Canada, Mexico, and specific European countries. In essence, we have removed any physical interaction and the ability for the consumer to self install each device in a three-step process.
What are some other challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
Funding is the biggest challenge for any good startup. We overcame this by bootlegging the project, creating small sales and private funding. Why? because we believe in the need to help others advance skills to provide safe food for this and the next generation.
Are there any other startups that you looked to for guidance or as a model when you were getting started/as you scale up?
There are many but we must create our own road to success. Although sensors have been around for 20–30 years, cloud-based IoT technology is very new. We have utilized a lot of guidance from incubators and events. We have been guided on specific issues like scaling up and over technical, financial, and operational hurdles.
Tell us about your funding experience to date.
It has been an education & a very worthwhile experience as it helps us learn about the gaps in our companies growth while pitching to potential investors. We are privately funded with two shareholders (Co-Founders) to date and excited to meet the next member of the team when they reveal themselves. The two co-founders are the current investors and bring both finance and expertise in IoT technology and experience in business growth. We are looking for a strategic partner that is passionate and connected to the industry with visions to improve the way we do things from farming to the food supply chain.
Have you interacted with any agrifood corporates? If so, who?
Yes, we have engaged with some incredibly talented agrifood corporates in British Columbia, Canada, and hope to interact with American companies in the near future. We cannot reveal their identities at this time.