Microsoft bring investment to agronomy analysis on the farm

An agronomics analytics service already used on more than 26 million acres is moving into the Canadian market, boosted by a recently announced US$3.2 million investment by M12—the corporate venture arm for Microsoft.

“What it means is we will be scaling across the Americas,” said Anastasia Volkova, chief executive officer and founder of Australian startup FluroSat.

The service is based on the company’s FluroSense computational engine, which applies agricultural science, machine learning and crop models on information gathered from farm records, machinery, field tests and remote sensing imagery.

“All it cares about is gathering the data for you, analyzing it for you, and spitting out the recommendation from where you need it to where you need it. If it’s to the tractor that you want to send your nitrogen recommendation to, you can push that button. If it’s to a scouting app, if you want to scout it using FluroSense, you can do that,” Volkova said.

She said the main difference between FluroSat and other analytics service companies is her company doesn’t just analyze imagery, weather or soil data.

“We are analyzing by interlacing them with biophysical crop models, that basically look like a recipe — mix this soil, with this crop, with this weather, with this management practice and you will get this crop nutrient requirements for this much yield,” Volkova said.

FluroSense connects to farm management platforms and automatically gathers satellite imagery and weather information and can use other agronomic information uploaded by users, including drone imagery.

“It analyzes the crop stress, it analyzes the crop’s performance, and give you alerts and updates on the performance of your crop. It compares it to last year’s performance, and the performance of your crop across your farm, and across the region,” Volkova said.

She said the engine will spot anomalies in the field that need to be scouted and track these areas over time, enabling growers to focus their attention where needed.

FluroSense can be used on most commodity crops and has been used on vegetables since this spring.

The company uses local models and research for its fertility recommendations.

“What you will do as a grower or as an agronomist you would import your soil samples for calibration, or your tissue test, or your yield data, all of that. It calibrates the balance within which we would be expecting the good, the bad, and the ugly crop to be,” Volkova said.

She said the company will run pilot projects in Canada next summer, and plans to launch in the country the year after that.

“Our business plan is to find the right partners who are going to help us either with data collection or the ground truthing,” Volkova said.

“We often work with agronomy consulting companies that actually help the growers make the best out of the data they get. Finding two or three of those means we get access to the data. We make the business more efficient and ultimately, we help the grower because our data becomes calibrated.”

She said growers that aren’t ready to use an analytics company to help with management decisions should still collect and manage agronomic data.

“Gather your data in the right way and there will come a time when you get to monetize it.”

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