DataFarming co-founder Tim Neale has been at the forefront of precision farming for more than two decades.
In that time he has seen the shift from being physically in the field to take measurements and make observations to a digital revolution. But so far, the update to leveraging big data for greater productivity has been slower than he’d hoped.
Now he believes a critical mass of users and investors will transform the industry and he believes that DataFarming, which he founded with his wife Peta in 2017, can lead the way.
The precision farming company provides digital solutions for farmers, powered primarily by satellite imagery, to unlock the value of farm data for agronomists and producers.
He already serves more than 120,000 paddocks in 28,000 farms in Australia and overseas markets, including the UK, South America, Africa and Europe.
“With 40% market penetration in Australia, we are looking to build more products and roll out our platform globally,” said Tim.
For Neale, the next step in DataFarming’s evolution is a $5M Series A increase on the Agrifutures growAg platform to support the development of its product suite and scale it globally.
“We have a few products, including the cloud-based Digital Agronomist, which provides satellite imagery to farmers every five days to help manage the variability they face, whether assessing crop yield in the field or over the course of the time, or making decisions about fertilizer use,” he said.
“This helps identify the root cause of production variability factors – and we have developed tools such as applying variable speeds to solve those problems.
“Almost every producer has an agronomist, but it can be a challenge for the agronomists to serve more fields. Technology can certainly help agronomists and farmers to check crops more thoroughly and faster.”
Talking about technology with farmers
Central to his thinking is the transition from DataFarming as a consultancy company to a light touch, mass market and low-priced digital platform.
“We put valuable, easy-to-use agricultural data in the hands of every agronomist and producer,” he said.
“DataFarming is an evolution of technologies over the past 20 years and is really driven by the frustration with the poor adoption of technology in agriculture. Before we came by, only 4% of farmers had actually looked at a satellite photo of their property. Now we are at the stage where we reach almost 40% of the market with our platform.”
But he doesn’t blame farmers for that slow adoption — he believes the tech industry has let them down.
“We blamed the user, but it’s not the user who failed. It’s basically the technology’s fault,” he said.
“Farmers have always been willing and able; they just haven’t presented it to them in the correct format before. And that’s largely because there just haven’t been enough people and investment in agricultural technology to date.”
Getting the right scale is central to Neale’s vision.
“If I were to build a cell phone for 40,000 people, it would be a substandard cell phone. But if I build a cell phone for 40 million people, or 400 million people, it’s going to be a really good cell phone,” he said.
“So it’s the same. Because there are only 40,000 customers for a particular precision farming product in Australia, there hasn’t been the money, investment or demand to actually do it. So everything is kind of bootstrapped. And that has led, among other things, to poor adoption rates.”
Agritech is blooming
Now, says Neale, two things have changed
“First, the whole world has been digitized. Second, the value people place on data has increased. This is a big change that drives the advancement of technology,” he said.
“Over the past 12 to 18 months, farming has really become the cool kid around.”
Tech is now helping with his pay raise too, with growAg filling what Neale sees as a big gap in the agtech market.
“Since our commercial opportunity on growAg. in December 2021, we generated more than a dozen very strong leads from private investors and VCs, both here in Australia and abroad, for little or no effort.
“By comparison, I have about 20 other leads I’m working on that have taken me years to collect.”
Read more about the Data Farming Series A investment round here,