Sprint is excited to announce our investment in Bitwise Agronomy’s convertible note round, alongside Jelix Ventures. Bitwise Agronomy is a Tasmanian-based start-up that is revolutionizing the way agriculture is managed through the use of precision analytics to help grape and berry growers forecast & manage crop variability.
Traditionally, checking a crop’s health was done through a visual inspection and by taking clippings of plants to test for nutrient levels through tissue analysis. This ensures an accurate diagnosis, however, is contained to a small sample size and fails to capture the entire crop’s details. It would take days to inspect the total field area depending on the farm size, which is why the agronomists infer information about the total crop population from the selected sample. This can result in missed areas of concern or opportunities for improvement which can lead to less accurate management decisions than would otherwise be possible.
Additionally, there is 1 agronomist in Australia for every 7,040 hectares of farmland showing the high demand and need for innovations in this space. So, with roughly 1 agronomist for every 27 farmers, those farmers need to seek an alternative when it comes to analysing their crop health. Computer vision technology has become the most popular stand-in for when growers need immediate or ongoing results to implement treatments or predict harvesting requirements.
Why we love Bitwise Agronomy
The Bitwise founders identified this industry dilemma when Fiona (CEO, Co-Founder) bought a vineyard in 2017 and realised the problems that growers faced regularly. Fiona reached out to Aran (CTO, Co-Founder) for assistance in building the product as she was able to articulate the needs of the customers being a target user herself. They co-founded Bitwise Agronomy to provide an accurate and holistic solution to provide to end customers all around the world.
“One of the biggest problems we face as berry growers are forecasting. Forecasting is the heart of everything we do. It relates to all our planning with packaging, staffing and selling our fruit to the end customer” – Bitwise Agronomy Customer.
Bitwise’s software allows farmers to automatically detect crop variability early, which will enable them to take corrective action to mitigate yield losses. The software examines vine growth, recognizes diseases, identifies climate impacts, and helps farmers avoid vine stress across their entire farm. By capturing better crop data, Bitwise also helps farmers forecast and manage variability, improving financial planning and reducing waste. This helps growers plan and right-size their picking crew across the season, saving on labour costs.
Furthermore, one of the unique benefits of Bitwise Agronomy’s technology is that it does not require any specialized hardware. Footage can be recorded from any GoPro camera attached to a tractor, mower, or other machinery, and then uploaded and analysed by the software when the farmer returns to the office. This sets Bitwise apart from competitors in the market who require customers to purchase specialty hardware or have a technician visit the site for ongoing analysis.
The farming industry can benefit greatly from increased accessibility to agronomists’ knowledge specifically to target food waste. Bitwise has shown close alignment with Sprint by notifying growers of when areas of their crop will need to be harvested and estimating how much quantity will be produced. This directly tackles the common occurrence worldwide that WWF found in their report stating that 15% of food is wasted before it leaves the farm. This report showcases that fruit and vegetables have the second highest waste as a per cent of the total production with 25% of all produce expended. With more accurate information this waste can be reduced through labour allocation, targeted fungicide/ pesticide usage and appropriate order sizing on contracts.
This round will allow Bitwise Agronomy to continue growing its revenue through the acquisition of more customers. They currently have seen 3x growth in sales over the past twelve months, with customers spread across Australia, America, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Romania, the United Kingdom and Latin America.
Bitwise Agronomy’s software can be used for berry and grape customers, but the product’s goal is to also be used for any ongoing harvesting crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes, chillies, and cranberries in the future. The more users that are on the software, the more the artificial intelligence improves, with approximately 2TB of data generated per month. This data helps the software identify plant health in various conditions across different landscapes and environments, providing an accurate diagnosis in any climate.
The team also aims to make this technology available to those without reliable internet access through a future product Bitwise Box. Ultimately, the team are determined to reduce the barriers for growers to access high-quality data and will continue to develop the software to assist customers all over the world.
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