Agriculture + Data Science = Economic and Environmental Benefits!
By Al Eisaian, Co-Founder and CEO of IntelinAir
I have spent almost two decades building software companies that deliver insights from giant digital data pools. As a byproduct of my focus as a software entrepreneur, I have made and currently make frequent trips between Los Angeles and San Jose.
Even though I make a lot of my trips by plane, when time allows I enjoy driving. And on those frequent drives I’m always captivated by the beautiful rural vistas of the vegetable farms, vineyards, and fruit orchards lining both sides of the freeway.
These farm scenes once conjured up images of a simpler lifestyle and slower-paced industry than the fast-paced tech sector I’ve been part of for the past couple of decades.
But in 2014, when I began exploring an entrepreneurial opportunity in the agriculture industry, I very quickly learned that what’s happening inside those picturesque rural landscapes is far from simple and slow-paced. It’s exactly the opposite; these fields are the working grounds for a highly complex industry that faces intense challenges and pressures.
No other industry than agriculture has the responsibility to feed, clothe, and provide energy for a world population that’s growing by some forecasts to 10 billion people by 2050—and fulfill those responsibilities despite impediments from mother nature, regulatory agencies, political pressures and fluctuating commodity prices. Land resources are becoming more and more constrained due to urban sprawl and environmental factors, such as climate change. Add to that the fact that farmers are retiring from the field at a faster rate than younger farmers are stepping up to take over, and you’ve got a real crisis facing the industry.
Other major factors affecting agriculture are commodity prices in major crops like corn and soybean that have been at historical lows. Finally, everyone is anticipating margin pressures resulting from the consolidation of big ag players, including Bayer-Monsanto and Dow-DuPont.
This is where I believe IntelinAir is bringing a whole new category of solutions to farmers that will enable them to make crucial decisions in-season (in near-real-time fashion) and next-season (based on key learnings from the previous season) that will help them run their operations more sustainably and more profitably.
Simplifying the Complexities to Deliver Positive Impact
I have an insatiable appetite and fascination with all the ways science and technology can be applied to real world problems to make life easier and more efficient. The more I learned about agriculture, the more it became crystal clear that agriculture is ready for wider adoption of digital technologies and specifically aerial data analytics that can improve efficiency on farms. Not only ready, but in desperate need of it.
Digital agriculture, which at its core includes aerial imagery analytics, is the answer to the challenge of meeting the needs of a rapidly growing world population and sustaining it for the long-term, and making the business of farming more reliably profitable.
It was from this critical need that we created IntelinAir as an aerial imagery analytics company that can convert farmers’ field data into information they can use to make better decisions. Aerial imagery analytics is the missing piece to close the loop between data obtained from equipment, weather, soil, seed and chemicals that can ultimately and accurately inform farmers on how well their operation is performing and allow them to make timely and impactful decisions.
In an era where advanced technology is transforming every aspect of our lives, the highly complex business of farming is surprisingly still heavily reliant on manual observation and gut-feel decision making. It is true that an increasing number of U.S. farmers are beginning to use some form of precision agriculture on their farms, such as yield monitors, GPS systems and variable rate application technologies.
But even in North America, where precision agriculture practices are widely used, estimates of waste and inefficiency are still at 20%. Worse yet, these inefficiencies can be as much as 50-70% in developing countries, and that can create even bigger problems like hunger and malnutrition, which can spiral further into strife and conflict within developing nations fighting over scarce resources. As a connected world, it is our collective responsibility to address these global pressures on food security; and luckily, advanced technologies can be brought to bear for a better outcome.
Here to Make a Difference
I’m personally driven by the prospect of creating a better world for future generations. The issues surrounding food and food security are real and touch every person on this planet. I seized the opportunity to create IntelinAir because, like many others, I see how the tech sector can and must join forces with agriculture to power innovation and solve urgent challenges facing our planet.
Farmers are among the greatest stewards of our precious land resources. We can do better by utilizing advanced aerial data analysis to use the resources available to us in the most efficient way possible.
The powerful combination of farmer knowledge and data science will be extraordinarily important as we continue through this century. Farmers and their advisors can use data and technology to make better-informed decisions that help them be more productive and better stewards of all resources. Digital agriculture holds the key, and IntelinAir is proud to be part of this crucial movement for our world and all of humanity.
Al Eisaian is a serial software entrepreneur with several successful exits in the past decade. His fundamental area of focus has always included extremely data-rich environments and advanced data-analytics to deliver actionable insights.