Win-Win Partnership Between Farmer and Startup

10:58AM Nov 06, 2019
“By starting early, I got to be a big voice and help shape the technology to get the best product for farmers.” ~Grant Norwood
( GroGuru )

Better, faster and stronger. Testing new technology and innovation on farms, rather than in labs or controlled trials, serves as the ultimate measuring tape.

When Tennessee producer Grant Norwood partnered with GroGuru, a startup with unique irrigation management technology enabling permanent soil sensor installation below till depth, the result was a big win for both farmer and company. Steered by AgLaunch, an ag tech-focused business acceleration program that connects growers and entrepreneurs, the Norwood-GroGuru collaboration serves as a blueprint for farmer-startup efforts.

Cutting-Edge Access

Across 3,000 no-till acres in northeast Tennessee’s Henry County, Norwood grows corn, soybeans and winter wheat, with roughly one-third of his acreage watered by pivots and under the eye of GroGuru’s strategic irrigation management technology. In 2018 and 2019, as the company’s first row-crop farmer-partner, Norwood tested GroGuru innovation.

“By starting early, I got to be a big voice and help shape the technology to get the best product,” he says. “GroGuru delivers useful information about what is around the root zone — a complete look at what’s underground, and I can plant over the permanent ground sensors.”

Candid Feedback

Patrick Henry, CEO of GroGuru, says farmer-partners are invaluable. “We got candid feedback from Grant that allowed us to improve. There is no substitute for being in the field and working while farmers deal with day-to-day problems. You can’t find that dynamic in a lab or in field trials that don’t directly involve our end-customer — the farmer.”

Norwood emphasizes the benefits for all growers: “The information I provided helped GroGuru with a better product and faster pace. Ultimately, this helps farmers access useful technology at the beginning of a startup. The experience produced a great working relationship, and I’m now involved in other AgLaunch projects.”

Tech On Farmer’s Terms

With a goal of putting farmers in the center of ag tech innovation, AgLaunch connects farmers with early stage startups to grow new companies together. “Farmer input is critical to developing innovative, effective technology in agriculture and our model offers farmers a stake in the company for their contributions,” says Schuyler Dalton of AgLaunch. “We are building a new farm-focused paradigm for commercialization.”  

You can learn how the farmer-centric model allows farmers to inform, invest in and gain early access to groundbreaking technologies at AgTech Expo. The AgLaunch team will present a breakout session about its farmer-centric model.

In the expo hall, AgLaunch and Farm Journal will present the Row Crop Challenge, which showcases ag tech teams working to bring their technologies to market. Up to six startups pitching at AgTech Expo will be offered a spot to participate in AgLaunch365, which will start in January 2020 and includes $75,000 of venture capital investment and startup support services valued at more than $125,000.  ~By Margy Eckelkamp