12 Precision Farming Companies that Will Make Headlines in 2019 (OPINION)

12 Precision Farming Companies that Will Make Headlines in 2019 (OPINION)

Ah yes, time again for our annual click-collecting effort here on PrecisionAg.com, otherwise known as our (quasi) annual list of companies that we think will make news in precision farming circles in 2019. Our 2018 entry in the series is located here, if you’d like to review that before going forward…

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First, a caveat (or two).

You’ll probably notice a couple duplicates from year’s past, but I tried (as best I could) to avoid selecting any repeat companies from past lists. Apologies if you were selected for this list before, yet are not on it now. I assure you that it is in no way a commentary on your product, software, solution, or company in general, we’re just trying to get some new blood in the series.

Secondly, this list is HUGELY subjective. I am a firm believer that our opinions are strongly influenced by our experiences in everyday life, so maybe the one’s that made this list did something marketing-wise that resonated with us, or maybe they didn’t. I guess what I am trying to say is, there are a zillion companies I admire and respect that we couldn’t include on this list, for one reason or another – outfits like Farmobile, Farmers Business Network, Nutrien Ag Solutions, or CropX – I could go on and on and on (as you already well know)…please don’t take it as a personal affront.

With that legalese out of the way and put to bed, I present to you, Dear Reader, a quick rundown of the 12 companies we see making some waves in the world of digital agriculture across the next 12 months. Feel free to return to this article near the conclusion of the year to see just how off I was with some of these calls:

  1.  AgGateway – We’ve received reports that AgGateway – the mostly-voluntary group of industry stakeholders that are tackling really important and sometime kinda nerdy issues in precision ag like data standardization and crop protection product barcoding – is in the midst of undergoing a bit of a reorganization, including a relaunching of the organization two years from now as “AgGateway 2020.” Wendy Ann Smith, President, wrote in a recent email: “the AgGateway Strategic Board has been working with the staff on a plan for changes to the AgGateway organization that will launch in 2020 (AgGateway 2020). The board seeks to better equip AgGateway to get more done, more quickly; reduce demands on member volunteers; and provide more value to members.” It will be interesting to see what this new, perhaps more nimble and responsive AgGateway looks like after the reorganization shakes out.
  2. AgriSync – AgriSync are the folks behind the uber-popular with ag service providers mobile business organization app of the same name. With buy-in already from some top service providers and dealerships in the industry like Central Valley Ag out in Nebraska and RDO Equipment, it stands to reason that as more retailers and dealerships embrace more of an agronomic service provider business model going forward, staying organized and up-to-date with grower-customers on a mobile, cloud-based platform like AgriSync is going to be especially important. Having an API with John Deere’s Operation’s Center doesn’t hurt either, as company President Casey Niemann shared with us after January’s Develop with Deere API conference: “Deere continues to foster an ecosystem for innovation through API’s and open protocols.  It’s a unique opportunity to have a developer conference that includes the practical voice of the John Deere Dealer.  Because dealers are on the front line of landing technology with customers, it helps drive practical solutions to real problems.”
  3. Airbus – Our content director here at Meister Media Worldwide, the always loquacious Jim Sulecki, wrote the preeminent piece on French aviation giant turned Ag Tech innovator Airbus, for our upcoming March issue of CropLife Magazine, so be sure to check that out once it hits mailboxes (and CropLife.com) in a few weeks. Having just recently announced its new analytics and satellite imagery-based directed scouting platform for ag service professionals, Verde, and having made a pretty big splash last summer at the InfoAg  Conference in St. Louis, it stands to reason the U.S. branch of Airbus’ ag division – headquartered in Fort Collins, CO, will have some interesting developments for us to follow in 2019.
  4. Amazon Web Services – Amazon is seemingly getting pretty serious about its ag division, having had a significant presence at both Farmer Business Network’s Farmer2Farmer Conference back in December in Omaha – where a partnership for FBN members to purchase discounted farm and household goods through a customized farmer dashboard within the FBN universe, was announced – as well as at Deere’s Develop with Deere API conference in Chicago. Anytime a tech giant like Amazon starts sniffing around ag – and sniffing around much more intently, it seems – we’re going to take notice. Add to that the fact that AWS’ cloud services platform is among the most widely adopted in ag – there’s a good chance your favorite mobile apps and FMIS programs are Powered By Amazon Web Services – Amazon is a good bet to continue making waves with every move it makes across the ag sector.
  5. Bear Flag Robotics – There’s probably no sexier topic right now in precision ag circles than autonomous vehicles and implements. It stands to reason that autonomous vehicles will make their debut in farm fields before they are ever mass-released on our nation’s highways and city streets, farm fields being a much more controlled environment with less traffic and therefore less risk to others, we’re hearing a scale-able and economically viable autonomous farm machine is not as far off as once believed. These guys are rather young, being in Pre-Series A of the venture capital cycle currently, but they’ve got some promising application of tech and robotics and machinery that might make a splash over the next 12 months. Definitely stay tuned…
  6. Ceres Imaging – Ceres Imaging is an interesting Ag Tech aerial imagery outfit, having reportedly more market penetration in the specialty and vineyard markets throughout California and the Pacific Northwest than in Midwest row crops thus far. Having just released it’s Cumulative Stress Index – which the startup describes as “combining various imagery indices into a single metric to assess overall plant stress over a growing season and strongly correlates to actual yield results” the new product sounds like a possible must-have for time-stressed ag service providers and agronomists tasked with monitoring many fields over the course of a single growing season. Having had the opportunity to chat with CEO Ash Madgavkar a couple weeks ago about the company’s long-term strategy and some of the things they are seeing in the imagery space currently – a focus on thermal and other types of previously unconventional imagery layers like LiDar, going forward – they’d be a safe bet to add a healthy amount of acres to their system in 2019.
  7. Deere/Blue RiverOur takeaways from Deere’s recent API conference not withstanding, we’ve heard reports that 2019 may FINALLY reveal the equipment sector giant’s plans for Blue River Technologies promising See & Spray technology. We’re hearing Deere has ideas on how this technology will scale across large ag operations and where it might fit in the Deere machine universe, so we here at PrecisionAg.com who’ve been following the Blue River story for a couple years now, are sitting on pins and needles awaiting this exciting news from Deere.
  8. NVIDIA – Wait, NVIDIA? The gaming tablets and graphics cards guys? That NVIDIA? Yes, dear Reader, THAT NVIDIA. NVIDIA is a company to watch because, quite frankly, they are the engine driving the car that is Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in ag – two technologies that promise to change how agronomic services are delivered to the farm for years to come. NVIDIA first popped up on my radar when I visited the Blue River guys during their summer trial runs down in cotton country in Lubbock, TX, just prior to being acquired by Deere, as the outfit’s AI-processing chips were the true processing power behind that system and it’s ability to react (ie See & Spray) in real time. As ML/AI continue to change the way we interact with machines, its safe to assume NVIDIA will be the hardware driving that revolution.
  9. Precision Planting – This one is likely a repeat from past lists, but after attending Precision Planting’s Winter Conference back in January in a frigid and snow covered Tremont, IL, it’s clear this outfit is leading the way in aftermarket planter add-ons, such as its recently released SmartDepth sensor-based automation system for automating planter depth. When combined with it’s SmartFirmer sensor, the two products exchange real-time data on things like furrow moisture percentage and change the planter depth automatically, ensuring farmers are planting at the right depth for current agronomic conditions. Owen Gudeman, owner of On Top Precision Ag, a Precision Planting Platinum dealer out of Kouts, IN, told me this when asked about the companies’ agronomy-first approach to equipment: “…when they come with a new product it’s not just some random shot in the dark, throwing something out there and just seeing if it sticks. It’s research-backed and ROI focused, and growers appreciate that. They’re looking out for your dollar as a grower…”
  10. SmartAg – SmartAg are the Ames, IA-based group behind the autonomous grain cart aftermarket add-on kit that has turned a lot of heads in farming since it was released. Having sat in the grain cart on Illinois farmer Jeremy Wilson’s farm during harvest a couple years ago, I can see how automating the task of the grain cart riding alongside the combine is valuable and could drive efficiency at the farm gate. I was supposed to have a field demo with SmartAg at this year’s Farm Progress Show on Day One – but as anyone else who was in Boone that day will remember, Mother Nature was not so kind to allow that field demo to take place. The group will have its leadership and products again available at the upcoming Commodity Classic show in Orlando, FL, so stay tuned for more on that in our post-show wrap up…
  11. Taranis – The Israeli outfit that took over early Ag Tech imagery startup Mavrx this past summer, Taranis is focusing its efforts on its AI2 imagery product for ag, as well as crop emergence and stand count algorithm-based programs, in 2019. Our own Jackie Pucci got the scoop on Taranis and its potential as a service-provider facing aerial imagery platform, so I’ll let her article stand as sole testimony of Taranis’ potential to make news in 2019 for this piece. Keep an eye to Silicon Valley (and the folks over at AgFunderNews.com) for the latest on Taranis in the coming months…
  12. Teralytic – Another company that was at the Develop with Deere conference to highlight it’s API connection with Deere’s Operations Center farm data portal, Teralytic’s wireless N,P,K soil sensor is intriguing both for the passive soil data collection abilities it provides, as well as its shockingly-affordable price tag. Now, we’re not saying these soil sensors can fully displace a ag retailer-deployed soil and tissue sampling program, but the data streaming off these inexpensive soil sensors can give ag service providers yet another insight into a grower’s soil conditions, and allow that same ag service provider to provide a higher level of service around nutrient recommendations and placement.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Companies listed in alphabetical order. There you have it, you’ve reached the end of this year’s article. Hope you enjoyed it. As always, we’d love to hear from you on who you think we missed, if you don’t agree with one or many of our selections, or if you think we knocked this one out of the park. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below, and everybody have a great 2019 as we continue to uncover what lies ahead for Ag Tech and ag service providers in the coming months and days.