Navigating the Ag Industry

Cheruvu, my University of Michigan based ag-tech startup, recently attended the 2017 Agriculture Technology Innovation Summit, held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. From February 22 & 23, the Summit offered an excellent meeting space for entrepreneurs, industries, and AgTech experts to share the innovative ideas to improve agricultural efficiency all across the world and create and develop connections. The two day event was co-hosted by the College of ACES, the University of Illinois Research Park, and the Office of Corporate Relations at the University of Illinois.

I represented my startup, Cheruvu, at the summit. Cheruvu employs crop science, machine learning, and crowd analytics to increase crop yields of small-farmers. We mitigate risk for farmers in developing countries by increasing informational access for agricultural decisions. connections. It was an incredible and productive event for our startup, as I got to meet many investors who were interested in investing in a startup like ours. I also spent a lot of time talking to startups from the U.S.A. that are similar to ours, and ones that are interested in partnerships.

The main underlying theme of the summit was to tackle the issue of ever increasing demand for agricultural products. Earth’s population is at its peak and is exponentially growing; however land is limited. The idea behind the summit was to bring together various stakeholders related to the agriculture industry, from seeds manufacturers to machinery, analytics to software developers, and discuss the ways to increase agricultural efficiency, as well as environmental sustainability.

The summit started with the keynote by Bill Simmons who is Emeritus professor from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and part of Agrible. Bill Simmons walked the audience through the advancement in agriculture technology over years and how drones bring the power of a bird’s eye view to the operations. The summit had wide range of panel discussions by experts from Ag Tech investors to Farms operators, Ag Tech startups to big Agro industries like Dow AgroSciences and The Climate Corporation. Listening to the discussions and talks of AgTech experts was an extremely motivational experience. Ken Dalenberg, owner of Scattered Acres Farm for corn and soybean production, stressed on how AgTech is different from other IT startups and the importance of understanding agricultural operations and farmer’s point of view. This thought was supported during the discussion by big AgroIndustries on how companies evaluate a particular technology.

The summit was a great platform for AgTech startups to connect with each other and share their stories. The summit offered many opportunities to pitch the startup idea in front of the audience, which we participated in. The Edwin Moore Agricultural Innovation Prize at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign was given to Soil Dignostics Inc., who manufacture soil testing equipments. The founder of Soil Diagnostics, Kaustubh Bhalerao, was looking for agronomists to partner with to test their hardware and wanted to work in India. I have found that it is usually difficult for AgTech startups to meet, and it was incredibly helpful to come into contact with groups that could be both complementary and motivating for our group. We were excited about the possibility of partnership, and will be talking to a number of the companies we met during this trip. It is sometimes hard to put yourself out in the mix, but I found it was incredibly energizing to meet others who are as excited about modern agricultural problems as our group.

The summit ended with ribbon cutting for Syngenta Digital Innovation Lab at UIUC. The overall experience was very fruitful and provided us numerous opportunities to meet relevant people across all the stakeholder groups in Agriculture Industry.

*A big thank you to the Center for Entrepreneurship and TechArb, who made it possible for us to attend and participate in one of the largest AgTech events in the United States.