Shark Tank Eyes Hottest Ag Tech

April 17, 2018 03:09 PM
Shark Tank

Want to peek behind the curtain at tomorrow’s hottest farming technology? Look no further than agriculture’s shark tank.

Pedal to the floor and tires smoking, AgLaunch provided a lively shark tank-type forum for 15 vanguard technologies covering all facets of agriculture in early March in Memphis, Tenn.

“The foundation of our program is connecting early stage ag tech companies with farmers to help inform product development and become engaged in the scale up of the company, and farmers get a tangible benefit as a partner in the company,” says Pete Nelson, president and executive director of AgLaunch.

“All of the companies that presented are part of the AgLaunch portfolio and are being considered for further investment and are participating in field trials this summer with assistance from Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s pilot cost-share program,” he adds.

The innovations were presented to two panels composed of producers from the AgLaunch Farmer Network, Innova Memphis investment group and industry professionals. In order of appearance:

Persistence Data Mining (PDM): A replacement for grid soil sampling and lab sample processing, PDM uses UAVs and hyperspectral imaging. PDM president and ninth-generation producer Penny Nagel says grid soil sampling doesn’t compare to the speed and efficiency of PDM: “We’re wasting money with excessive fertilizer. Persistence data mining provides more data sets per acre, enabling farmers to make much better decisions. It’s so much faster and everything is done right in the field.”

Decimator: The bolt-on Decimator from Hintech Ag chews through corn stubble, saving tires and ultimately producers’ money and time, according to Ted Hinton, certified crop adviser and president of Hintech Ag. A large metal-veined cylinder, which contains a solid cylinder, traps corn stubble between the veins and inner cylinder creating a crush point to destroy or dislodge the stalk. “It’s highly effective in mitigating tire damage, extracting root balls and enhancing residue decomposition,” Hinton says.

Stable’N: Designed by southeastern Illinois producer Bryan Tomm, Stable’N is an economical nitrogen stabilizer that uses an electrical field to treat soil. It can be retrofitted to fertilizer equipment by bolting on to the coulters. “Including equipment costs, it’s about $1 per acre,” Tomm  says. Stable’N was a finalist for the 2017 Tulane Nitrogen Reduction Challenge’s $1 million grand prize.

EquipassID: Via a microchip, Newton RFID’s EquipassID offers immediate access to mandatory and vital health information and indemnification documents for horses and eliminates the paper trail during transfers or travel. Entirely digitized, EquipassID is energized by a reader that wakes up the device to add or extract information. “All data can be updated with a smartphone app,” says Mark Johnson, president of Newton RFID.

SmarteRoot: To increase water absorbability for plant roots, Global AgSmarte’s SmarteRoot treats irrigation water with radio frequency, which leads to larger root mass, greater overall plant growth and higher yield, according to Global AgSmarte representative Justin Tomlinson. “We use multiple frequencies and directly inject our radio frequency so we have maximum efficiency,” he explains. “SmarteRoot works with any type of irrigation system. The technology can increase nutrient uptake and foliage, build stress resistance and increase yield from 10% to 20%,” Tomlinson adds.

AgriSync: A collaborative platform between farmers and industry advisers, AgriSync diminishes down time, reduces service costs and scales expertise. The technology centralizes immediate support, real-time video, alerts and more. “AgriSync is a free, simple-to-use tool for farmers to get the best support and collaboration from the experts they work with every day,” says co-founder Jerrod Westfahl.

Rantizo: Using an electrostatic sprayer via UAV application, Rantizo delivers chemicals precisely where needed. A different paradigm from traditional spraying, UAVs are loaded with cartridges only containing the active chemical
ingredient. “This sprayer charges the liquid and that leads to even, low-levels of coating, as low as 1 oz. per acre,” says Michael Ott, co-founder of Rantizo. “We can mount a low payload on a drone and spot-spray a field. The wrap-around has the benefit that spray sticks to leaves and doesn’t go to the ground, the water or a neighbor’s field.”

Skycision: By combining drone and satellite imagery, Skycision specifies exact areas of crop stress. Specialty crop growers lose 3% to 4% of yield each year to undetected pests or disease, says Skycision CEO Brendan
Carroll. “Skycision can save them 50% of the loss. Infestations happen to everyone, but our technology lets a grower react before pest or disease loss can spread and have a cataclysmic impact,” he explains.

AgHelp: In an effort to address labor shortages and logistical issues, AgHelp is a digital platform aimed at collaboration and communication. Ivan Paredes, AgHelp representative, says the system is mutually beneficial to both farmers and hired workers: “It’s a big benefit for farm employers to source workers nationally and this is cheaper than posting an advertisement. This is streamlined for everyone. A farm worker can travel freely knowing where a job is located. AgHelp will be more effective than anything on the market.”

SmartGuard: Millions of piglets are accidentally mashed by mother sows each year. SwineTech’s SmartGuard monitor protects piglets by listening for the squeal frequency emitted by a trapped piglet, and delivers a mild shock to the sow via a wearable adhesive, causing the sow to stand. “About 22.5 billion pounds of pork is lost each year,” says SwineTech founder Matthew Rooda. “This pops the momma to get up with about two-fifths the strength of a dog collar shock and is like a Fitbit for pigs.”

MicroBiometer: Moving soil testing from the lab to the smartphone, this device allows a producer to estimate microbial biomass in 10 minutes for a tenth of typical lab costs, according to Judith Fitzpatrick, founder of MicroBiometer. Results can be read with a smartphone or tablet app. “For $15 you can tell if you’re improving your soil and check the results with a cellphone,” Fitzpatrick says. “MicroBiometer is soil health in the palm of your hand.”

HarvestYield: The web- and mobile-based app simplifies custom application and harvesting by eliminating paperwork for everything from dispatching to invoicing. “We focus exclusively on custom farming, and we’re changing the entire process to make it so much easier for everyone involved,” says Juan Figuera, co-founder of HarvestYield.

Kilimo: A digital accounting system for water and a decision support tool for irrigation management, Kilimo uses satellite, climate and on-site data to feed a proprietary big data engine to create an irrigation prescription for each crop. The technology improves yields up to 3% and water use efficiency up to 70%, according to Jairo Trad, CEO of Kilimo. “We know how much water you have initially, and then we measure everything, including how much you use, along with weather data,” he explains. “We show up twice during the season to show you our ratings are correct. No sensors are involved.”

Rabbit Tractors: Weighing only a quarter as much as normal-sized tractors, Rabbit Tractors operate in autonomous swarms. The simple design uses common parts, and components come apart in light sections, enabling farmers to fix equipment in the field, says Zack James, founder of Rabbit Tractors. “Running three units instead of one is a better business model and provides far more versatility. In addition, better use of precision technology requires smaller equipment, and that’s what we’ve got,” he notes.

EarthSense: Weighing less than 30 lb., EarthSense places herbicide resistance in the crosshairs of autonomous rovers that attack weeds with non-chemical weapons. The rovers can travel below the canopy for weed removal and crop scouting. “This is an ultralight, autonomous weed killer, and we’re testing different types of cutting blades. It will be capable of staying in the field for the entire crop season,” says Chinmay Soman, co-founder of EarthSense.

And the winner is …

Rantizo spray technology received top ranking from the judges,followed by a tie for second place between EarthSense and Kilimo.

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