Farms Advice speaks with Sam Duncan and his experiences with his new ag-tech company that he has developed. With his products derived from the customer’s needs instead of producing products in the hope of finding the relevant customer base. Read below to see Sam’s thoughts on starting FarmLab and which direction he is taking the company.
What is FarmLab and who is your product directed towards?
FarmLab is an ag-tech company that helps agronomists and farmers visualise their soil. We provide a web platform to help users view soil across the farm, and collect soil information through soil samples over time. The results are mapped back across a farm and can be used to help understand long term soil and land-use changes and to accurately apply inputs.
What do you see being the biggest thing to impact agribusiness in the next 5 years? In your industry or another.
Climate change of course, we’re already seeing a major shift in the climate here in Australia with the worst drought on record severely impacting most farm operations on the East coast over the past 12 months. There is a need for agribusinesses to adapt to the ‘new normal’ in climate, which means growing different crops better suited to warmer and sometimes dryer (but also sometimes wetter) environments. For Agtech companies this will mean focussing on helping farmers be more adaptable in their operations, responding quicker to climate change and even taking advantage of incentives to reduce and manage CO2 emissions and improve soil carbon.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had starting FarmLab, marketing to farmers across Australia or raising funds?
We’ve been bootstrapped so far, but have been luckily enough to receive some large grants in support of our work with the University of Sydney as part of the Soil Tech project. As a result our biggest challenge to adoption has been educating our customers on the value of soil mapping and sampling. This year we’re investing heavily in education and training to help teach farmers more about digital tools (not just Farmlab) that they are able to use to optimise their operation.
If there were one thing you would change about agriculture what would you change & why?
I think our attitude towards agriculture needs to change. Humans starting farming thousands of years ago, when it was an ‘us vs them’ approach to the environment. If we knew what we knew now about our impact on soil and the environment I think we’d do it differently. Of course we had to experience it to learn about it, but I think we need to change our attitude to be more sustainable in the future when it comes to our approach to land (and soil) management.
Where do you see FarmLab in five years from now?
Our mission is to digitise the earth’s soil, and I hope we’ll have done that (or be part of the way there) in five years. Of course the challenge after that will be using that data to help improve agriculture for the next generation of farmers.
What is one thing you would recommend to a younger version of yourself to launching an agri-tech company?
Build what your customers are asking for. This might sound obvious, but sometimes as entrepreneurs, we get distracted by the latest science or technology to hit the market or the industry. More often than not we will build a feature that has been research-based and find it struggles to gain traction in the market, but when to build a feature our customers have asked for, it tends to be adopted more widely.
See how you could use FarmLab as an agronomist or a farmer. Contact FarmLab today.
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