For the last 20 years, farmers, growers and consultants have been collecting data from the farm and soil but haven’t known what to do with it. Along those lines, it’s also insanely expensive for companies to develop and launch a product and get to market. Arva Intelligence is hoping to make it easier for everyone by using artificial intelligence to analyze data and predict things like product efficacy, soil health and conservation and much more. To learn more about this, we caught up with Jay McEntire, Co-Founder and CEO of Arva Intelligence, to discuss how this will have a profound impact on the industry.
According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, more than 58 percent of farmers in North Dakota are over the age of 55. As younger generations take over the farm, what does that mean for technology being adopted in agriculture?
As younger generations grow into farming, technological solutions will be adopted faster. However, the challenge in ag-tech will be creating and clearly demonstrating ROI within operations as a whole. With rising land prices, many new farmers do not have the stability or land base paid for that many current farmers already do, forcing them to be conscientious business managers. Technological value will need to be easy to understand with direct deliverables and quantifiable financial return.
I’ve often heard farmers complain that the people developing technology for the farm don’t truly understand life on the farm. Can you tell us about how you’re ensuring that you’re developing tech that the farmer will actually use?
We couldn’t agree more, as many of the Arva team are farmers ourselves! Several more of us have been involved in agriculture companies throughout their careers. If there is one thing that we are all focused on, it is creating solutions that address issues we encounter ourselves ― and making those solutions simple to use. Every farmer wants to get the most out of what they have, and Arva uses your data to help reduce risk and optimize the profitability of your fields.
The amount of data that can be collected in agriculture is staggering. Talk about the struggle of not only collecting that data but then also making it easy to understand and be useful for the farmer?
Farmers have been collecting data for decades and the industry as a whole kept talking about “big data” but never clearly agreed on how to use it. Data is abundant with IoT devices, aerial imaging, chemistry, biology and everything in between. Each of these data layers is a piece of the puzzle that form the bigger picture of your unique farm, and Arva removes the tedious steps of interpreting the information yourself. With our machine learning engine, you can now utilize all of your data together to speed your decision making and optimize your farm’s profitability and soil health for a long-term, sustainable future.
Land stewardship is going to continue to be more important with the growing population and environmental concerns. How is technology going to be the answer to make sure we’re taking good care of our land?
The key to true land stewardship is understanding that sustainability and profitability are intimately connected. The entire agriculture supply chain – from manufacturers to retailers to farmers – will benefit by employing technology to deeply understand the soil microbiome. By striving to match plant genetics with soil biogeochemistry, we will be able to optimize outcomes so farmers can create more with less input cost and manufacturers can create better products faster. Arva Intelligence is actively using our data system to quantify the profitable use of sustainable practices and keep our farms strongly producing year over year.
What has been the initial reception of your technology?
The initial reception to Arva Intelligence’s technology has been humbling. Despite being a young company, we are thrilled to be working with some of the biggest players in agriculture, as well as leading promising projects with research institutions, including the Department of Energy. The most validating comments we receive when showing growers, crop advisors and other ag-related companies our technology are that they have been looking for something like this for a long time. Our customers believe that it finally helps answer the question of what to do with the data we have been collecting for so long.
What is the next needed shift in ag?
One of our providers has a saying that we had precision in agriculture before we had accuracy. We can measure just about any aspect of a field’s ecosystem with unprecedented detail, and we believe the next peak in agriculture will be implementing technology to quickly process decisive understanding interactions within soil, fertility, seed and biology. When we can derive quick and easy actions from processed data on scale, we will be able to catapult precision agriculture to the next level with more effective decisions about what we apply, where that is and how much to create the highest return, lowest risk and best environmental practices.
What do you think the farm of the future will look like?
Farming is a world of constant change and decisive action. It is critical for growers to make decisions quickly in order to get the most out of their operation and adapt to the dynamic variables in each field. Today, most ag-tech only tells you why something happened, not what we can immediately do to influence the production for the future. The most exciting innovations driving the next wave of agriculture will be combining data with decision making so farmers can predict just how a field will operate and be confident in minimizing their risk and maximizing production with healthy, secure soil for generations to come.