Ever since our ancient ancestors first devised a method to sow, cultivate, and harvest plants, the life of a farmer has been unpredictable. Even with dazzling technical advancements that have propelled modern agriculture to new heights, there are unending questions of labor costs, supply chain issues, market demand, and climate instability. California-based startup Agtools’ proprietary software platform seeks to remove some of that uncertainty by employing algorithms and commodities data that provides real-time intelligence to drive efficiency and reduce waste.
But the world of tech start-ups is similarly renowned for being unpredictable. Agtools founder and CEO Martha Montoya knew that her company’s user-friendly SaaS solution was gaining traction within the agricultural industry but lacked brand recognition in the larger tech sphere. To continue to scale Agtools to a global business and take their digital tools to the next level, the company partnered with Microsoft.
Leveraging reliable data to guide agriculture
Since launching in 2017, Agtools’ data analytics platform has blossomed to feature over 500 different specialty agricultural commodities. By tracking dozens of variables at a rate of one billion transactions a second, farmers can not only get useful data to help with planting and harvesting, but also get a sense of the worldwide market for their crop. According to Montoya, this ability to adapt to market conditions can have a profound impact.
“If the market is bad, it doesn’t matter how good you did with your crop,” Montoya said. “Within my commodity, I need to know how to manage my crop to decide whether I'm going to move fast into the market or move out of the market and not lose money.”
For one of Agtools customers, a prominent grower specializing in blueberry production, having reliable access to information from other areas of the planet where fruit was grown would be vital to their planning. Among the most important data sets would be specific weather patterns in microclimates—not just for areas where the crop is grown, but also transportation routes.
“Very few people (consider) weather at the destination,” Montoya said. “I have seen trucks leave to Florida, there's a storm and they never make it. The farmers get impacted because (their perishables) never gets to the destination, therefore they have to throw away the food.”