Things like frost might ruin our early morning walk with our dog, and droughts may hamper us from taking long showers, but oftentimes these things don’t overwhelmingly impact our day-to-day lives.
But for farmers, frost and droughts can destroy their income and ruin years of work literally overnight. Which is why preventative measures to mitigate the impact of events like frost and drought are so needed by farmers in order to protect their livelihoods.
That is where Smart Yields comes into play with a smart data driven tech solution that can help to solve for these very issues and empower the farmer to grow confidently.
Check out how this inspiring company came to be as we sit down with Founder & CEO, Vincent Kimura.
Vincent, can you tell us about the “aha” moment that led you to found smart yields?
I had already been working in clean technology and agriculture technology for years, which gave me some insight into the challenges farmers were facing. In 2015 I was selected for a Hawaii-based accelerator Blue Startups that gave me the nudge I needed to create something new and innovative, to turn a passion and an idea into something real.
For those that don’t know how large is the problem that you are solving?
Farmers can’t rely on anecdotal resources like the Old Farmer’s Almanac anymore. Extreme frost’s impact on an apple orchard wipes out five years of tending and nurturing. Both droughts and floods can place the small farmer in the same predicament of having to start over.
Food-safety and regulatory issues place a significant time and financial burden on farmers. It’s a global issue with regional implications for every community, depending on local challenges and opportunities.
In the U.S. 40 farms are lost every day, according to USDA data, accounting for more than 2,200 acres of farmland. We’re working to reverse that trend by empowering farmers through shared data.
What type of farmer fits into your core market?
Smart Yields is being used by farmers, growers, organizations, nonprofits, companies, and researchers around the world. Our target farmer is small- to medium-size — a vastly underserved market when we look at agriculture technology solutions, which are largely used by “big ag.”
I’d imagine trying to sell tech to small town farmers can be challenging so how are you managing the sales / education process?
Smart Yields believes very strongly that the user experience for the farmer is key to everyone’s success. It is our goal to ensure ease of use, from on-boarding to implementing to receiving alerts.
Our industry experts are well versed in agriculture and highly cognizant of how environmental sciences, catastrophes (both natural and human-induced) and geography can critically impact the small farmers’ future. The team’s user experience strategist makes sure that the end user is never forgotten.
We partner with industry organizations, academia, nonprofit and community organizations, public and private partners to help educate farmers and develop solutions that are tailored to regional markets. We also have offices and locally based teams where we operate to work closely with farmers and introduce our solutions to the local marketplace.
Has there been any pushback on the price point from farmers since your target market doesn’t tend to make significant money?
Regulations that are formed to support and protect the small farmer pose an overwhelming challenge – any time needed to learn and practice takes away from the farmer’s dusk-to-dawn responsibilities.
Certifications such as GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) and FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) will directly impact their customers (restaurants, distributors), who will shoulder the accountability for their customers. Smart Yields has created a solution that allows farmers to streamline these processes for as little as $14.99 a month.
By using data to improve food-safety processes, pest tracking, and real-time weather alerts, among other key factors, we are providing farmers with the tools they need to manage farms from the palm of their hand for pennies a day.
From a product standpoint, can you explain a bit more about the sensors and the platform? in simple terms how does it work to make farming more efficient?
Smart Yields leverages data from credible and timely resources plus original data from the farmer’s soil, topography and microclimates. This gives small to medium scale farms access to contextual and relevant insights.
The farmer will be able to view activity via a device agnostic application. The reports and trends are detailed and contextual to what the farmer has identified as important factors that are missing from their current knowledge base.
This helps the farmer take steps confidently and make decisions that will increase productivity and efficiency. We ensure that data is anonymized and sanitized. It is our attention to detail that enables the farmer to make better decisions and develop best practices.
With all of the data you are collecting are there ways to monetize this data and who would pay for access to this info?
Industry organizations, researchers, academia, nonprofit and community organizations, public and private partners, and farmers. Our business model allows small and large farms to work together to mitigate issues like frost.
Are there any competing tools that exist on the market today and how does this outcompete what exist?
By focusing on solutions-based technologies for farmers, we are able to be nimble and adaptable in our local and regional farming communities as conditions, demands and climate changes.
Uniquely, we choose to partner with select hardware companies, rather than develop our own. This brings down cost and development time, allowing us to focus on providing better solutions to our farmers.
You’ve raised $1.5m to date, at what life cycle stage are you in the business and where do you see smart yield in 5 to 8 years?
Smart Yields is already operating in four states and two countries, with plans to grow to nine states and three countries by end of 2019. In the past year, after opening locations in Europe and Asia, we are poised to capitalize on established relationships and successful trial projects. Funds raised will go toward supporting small- and medium-size farms and orchards in your region and around the world.
We think this mission driven founder is onto something and can make a sizeable social and economic impact with its smart data solution. It will be interesting to see how powerful their data sets can become over time. This will be a key defensive moat for the organization.
If you like what Vincent and the team are building be sure to invest, and stay tuned to see if they make our coveted Top Deal list.
About: Chris Lustrino
A Boston College Eagle for life, on a mission to democratize startup investing for all people at KingsCrowd, with a passion for Fintech, investing, social impact, doing well and doing good, and an avid runner, cyclist and writer.