This post is part of our Future of Agriculture series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Carlos Gonzalez, co-founder of Farmapp.
1. What’s the history of Farmapp? Where and how did you begin?
CG: Farmapp began in 2014 as a digital IPM (Integrated Pest Management) solution. Founded by Luis Eduardo Ortiz (Mechanical Engineer with great experience in Agritech projects) and myself (an Electronic Engineer with over 15 years in software and IoT development), we were both looking to integrate technology into the agricultural industry.
Farmapp started operations in Colombia in 2015, supporting flower growers with the management of pests and diseases. Colombia, the second largest producer of flowers in the world, allowed us to develop Farmapp side by side with the most important players in the industry and with the highest standards.
2. What specific problem does Farmapp solve? How do you solve it?
CG: There is an increasing problem in developing countries; they are considered the pantry of the world but there is no strict control over the use of pesticides and/or the management of pests and diseases. High demand for products makes this practice very polluting for the environment and humans. Additionally, this is one of the causes of the low profitability of the agricultural sector in these countries. Pest and disease monitoring, spraying control, climate management and crop production estimates are agricultural lines that are treated very empirically and often in a manual, low-tech way.
Farmapp has developed a data analytics platform that combines information from different technological sources such as geo-referenced applications for scouting, spraying analytics, climate conditions, as well as integrating the use of remote sensors to measure and control climate variables and crop conditions. Once the information is processed and analyzed, it is delivered back to the growers as 24/7 reports with forecasts, alerts and more importantly, the ability to take action directly with our fully automated greenhouses with help of machine learning. Blockchain certificates are also part of the Farmapp portfolio, facilitating the exporting and importing processes by providing trustable and transparent information about where the product comes from and what practices were used to deal with pests and diseases.
3. What’s the future of Agriculture?
CG: As technology evolves, so do the possibilities of Agtech solutions that can be developed. I truly believe Agtech will solve these three main challenges for Agriculture.
Prediction #1: Agriculture biotechnology will continue to enable farmers to grow more disease-resistant plants, improve the health and nutrition of the soil, and increase their yield.
Prediction #2: Automating hand-labor processes with robots is definitely an area of interest in developed countries. As the food demand and labor costs increase, farmers will require alternative ways to replace labor.
Prediction #3: Artificial Intelligence techniques such as machine learning will facilitate the analysis and understanding of data from sowing to harvesting in ways that we can't imagine today. Plant and soil requirements per specific location and/or weather conditions can be analyzed in a matter of seconds, facilitating the work of researchers and agri-chemical producers.
4. What are the top 3 technological trends you’re seeing in Agriculture?
Trend #1: IoT sensors and analytics platforms are enabling farmers with the information and tools they need to produce in a more sustainable way. A better understanding of the phytosanitary status of the farm, spraying controls and weather analysis provide the insights growers need to plan irrigation, reduce the use of pesticides, and more.
Trend #2: Food Traceability. There is a huge concern from consumers who want to know how and where the food is delivered from. Current technologies facilitate this process with blockchain and QR codes.
Trend #3: Urban farming is becoming an even more popular way to produce specific products at home or rooftop gardens. From the US to Singapore and Japan this movement is gaining more traction from both enthusiasts and commercial growers. Plant factories are also attracting a lot of attention due to the capacity to produce food with a minimum risk of pests and diseases.
5. Why is the Agriculture industry ripe for disruption?
CG: Agriculture is one the industries that technology left behind in the race to conquer the world. An unknown world to many and a remote or non-accessible space for others led to the current situation. At the same time, entering late in the game is not always a bad thing. Agriculture is nowadays using the latest technologies available in the world, and much better connectivity is making technology adoption much cheaper than it was years ago for other industries. At the same time, Agriculture has space to involve more technologies, from nano-technology, robotics and software, and beyond.
About Carlos Gonzalez
Carlos is an Electronic and Software engineer with more than 15 years of experience delivering web, mobile and IoT solutions for startups and large corporations. Working as a developer, product manager and senior engineer gave him valuable experience to lead the product development in Farmapp. During his career, Carlos always had the motivation to provide solutions to the Agricultural Industry, and Farmapp helped him materialise his dream.
Carlos was recognized as one of the best IT managers in Colombia in 2015. He currently lives in Melbourne, Australia where works as CTO for Farmapp.