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Technology, Data and Analytics Shape the Future of Produce

Oct 03, 2017

By: Allison Nepveux, FreshTEC Expo Manager

Slim margins, limited resources, and demanding consumers mean that those within the agriculture industry have to be operating at the top of their game. Fortunately, technology is helping companies improve operations and manage risks.

To learn more, we talked with three technology providers as part of a three-part series on the role of tech in agriculture. For part two of the series, we sat down with Agrilyst to learn more about how software can help growers.

Agrilyst

It is well known that making data-driven decisions can improve operations. Everyone wants searchable, usable data, however, getting all the information within an operation into one central location isn’t always easy. Agrilyst, a web-based software platform, is changing that. The software has been designed to help indoor farms manage crops and gain insights that will help growers improve operations.

Allison Kopf, founder and CEO of Agrilyst, said farms have vast amounts of production data, but the information can live in fragmented, independent systems, which limits its value. Agrilyst brings the data together to make it actionable and accessible to everyone on the grower’s team.

The technology provider is focusing on automating all the processes on an indoor farm that are labor intensive but not mechanical. That can include everything from production planning, seeding, and timing sales and marketing campaigns.

As a result, farmers will have the information they need to maximize their yield. According to Agrilyst, its forecasts show growers what crops need to be harvested in a 30-day period with 90 percent accuracy. The data makes it easy to understand expected yield, number of units and revenue.

“From a product perspective, we’re really focused on helping farmers get to profitability quickly and sustainably,” Kopf said, adding that a new study by Agrilyst shows the average age of a profitable indoor farm is seven years. “Taking that time to get to profitability isn’t the way people want to run their business.”

Even once farms hit the profitability mark, margins aren’t always good. “We want to use data to help farms close that gap and increase that margin percentage,” Kopf said. “From a broad perspective, we think a lot about how farmers are producing and interacting with the people they interact with,” Kopf said. “How does the food get to a consumer? How do we make that as traceable and have as much information as possible?”

With Agrilyst, data can be entered manually or pulled in from devices. Information that streams through a sensor, such as climate control, nutrients or lighting data, can be fed in automatically, whereas harvest data, notes, and photos are entered directly.

Because Agrilyst compiles, stores and analyzes information from multiple sources, it can help growers create a record of data that is fully traceable from farm to sale, giving them greater risk protection. Traceability and food safety have become more important over the past five years, driven not only by the Food Safety Modernization Act but also the need for companies to protect their brands and build consumer trust.

“There are so many challenges around food safety certification. We want to take that knowledge gap out and give them a tool to do a better job on that,” Kopf said. “Data companies can help growers make that process easier, more unified and just better in general.”

Today Agrilyst has more than 100 different customers in 10 different countries. “It isn’t new but it is still early,” Kopf said, adding that the software provider is focused on horticulture and fresh-cut produce. Agrilyst’s customers grow a number of vegetables, including leafy greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Kopf said she expects indoor growing to increase because it is so efficient. “A tomato grower indoors can get a 10 to 20 percent margin. They can’t do that outside,” she said. “Any crop that is highly perishable and has a long supply chain and a high margin has good potential to grow indoors.”

Want to know more about tech in the industry? Read part one about FreshSurety Corp.’s work here. In the next installment, we will talk with iUNU.

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