farmers in field

Agtools case study

Agtools’ data analytics platform helps specialty farmers grow to new heights

Leveraging reliable data to guide agriculture

Agtools’ data analytics platform is capable of tracking dozens of variables at a rate of one billion transactions a second, and the company saw room to grow to meet customer demands.

A fast, secure, and reliable conversion to cloud

To continue responding to global customer inquiries like weather conditions or market demand, Agtools spent the better part of a year moving to a hybrid cloud solution based on Microsoft Azure.

Providing customers with a 360-degree outlook

With the backing and technical power of Microsoft behind them, Montoya said they remain as committed as ever to helping their customers increase profits, minimize food waste, and reduce their carbon footprints.

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.”

“In the face of rising costs of food across the world, Agtools provides food companies with improved market intelligence regarding availability and pricing leveraging the Microsoft Cloud.”

— Barney Debnam, Director of Business Strategy with Microsoft Industry Solutions

A conversion to cloud

To continue responding to global customer inquiries like weather conditions or market demand via fast, secure, and reliable processing, Agtools moved to a hybrid cloud solution based on Microsoft Azure. Having already won the Microsoft Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence award in 2018, Agtools had begun engaging with Microsoft solutions in their day-to-day operations, such as using Teams for communicating with their international customers. The conversion to cloud storage, which took the better part of a year, created a containerized pathway/system to maintain the non-relational original databases and work with customers within their relational databases ecosystem and their own Microsoft cloud.

“In the face of rising costs of food across the world, Agtools provides food companies with improved market intelligence regarding availability and pricing leveraging the Microsoft Cloud,” said Barney Debnam, Director of Business Strategy with Microsoft Industry Solutions.

According to Montoya, even more valuable than the technology has been the guidance Agtools has received from their Microsoft partners on long-term planning and global strategy.

“The wonderful mentors of ours who have been guiding us through this thinking process have helped more than the technical part of it,” Montoya said. “You need a mentor who is going to tell you A plus B equals C, but also when you need A plus B equals Z!”

A 360-degree outlook

With the backing and technical power of Microsoft behind them, Montoya said they remain as committed as ever to helping their customers increase profits, minimize food waste, and reduce their carbon footprints. Whether it’s using Power BI to help farmers visualize data or unlocking new capabilities on their platform based on client requests, Agtools can provide, as the blueberry producer calls it, a “360-degree outlook” of a particular specialty commodity. This expanded view of the worldwide market can be transformative for businesses of any size, from major distributers to small farms.

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