Editor’s Note: The PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence program — sponsored by the PrecisionAg Institute — honored the class of 2018 winners during the InfoAg Conference in St. Louis, MO, in July. This year’s winners include Bruce Erickson, Purdue University (Extension/Research Award); Nishan Majarian, Agrian (Crop Adviser/Entrepreneur Award); Rodney Wright, Wright Farms, Tyronza, AR (Farmer Award); and Newell Kitchen, University of Missouri (Legacy Award). Here is an up close look at Nishan Majarian, Agrian.
A little over two hours from Silicon Valley is one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, California’s Central Valley. It’s the place Nishan Majarian was born and raised, and Agrian, the software company he co-founded in 2004, in a way embodies it, where the worlds of agriculture and technology collide.
“Ag was and remains to this day the last great fragmented supply chain,” Majarian says, just having returned from a trip to his ancestral Armenia, where Agrian is expanding operations. “At the end of day, growers are really the ones that suffer from that. That’s our focus, is to streamline. You can’t streamline a process if it’s still on paper.”
Today, Agrian boasts the largest manufacturer indemnified crop protection database with over 11,000 products supported by more than 350 manufacturers. Through one integrated platform, it simplifies the five pillars of modern farming: precision, agronomy, sustainability, analytics, and compliance.
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The company started as a cloud-based record-keeping system to help those in the western United States navigate the ever-growing regulatory requirements, and quickly expanded its digital capabilities to include a platform approach to help agronomists, growers, and food processors work collaboratively within one system to accomplish many tasks including food company reporting, crop planning, scouting, imagery, soil and tissue sampling, logged and wireless data transfer, variable rate, and nutrient management to create a record of each crop in every market whether in specialty fruit crops, cereal grains or oil seeds.
In early June, the compliance system Agrian built passed one billion accumulative, treated, compliance- checked acres, Majarian says.
As agronomy, precision ag, and compliance continue to merge, Agrian, at its core, aims to be a one-stop platform for growers, farming operations, agronomists, and retailers for all crops, in all markets. Its work in both broadacre and specialty crop worlds give the company a unique perspective, he explains.
“You see all these silos breaking down. What does the grower need? What does the agronomist in the field need? They just need a simple, consistent platform by which to manage all of these things. So they don’t do compliance in one tool and agronomy in another tool, and precision ag in a different tool. They’ve got a tool that provides that with them a work flow that addresses all of these needs. That’s what we focus on,” he says.
“A lot of people like to talk about your competitor – this company, that company. The reality is, our greatest competitor, even to this day, is paper. Growers in many cases don’t want or don’t feel the need to document. That is changing rapidly since we started Agrian, but in our early days it was definitely paper and in many markets, it still is paper,” Majarian says. He backtracks: “I shouldn’t say paper is the only threat. The other threat is fragmentation of point solutions.
“Where we see precision ag going is an explosion of more data streams, more information, and that’s going to be hard for a lot of operations to manage without a platform to consume that … Once there is the new, next generation of autonomous devices and robots – once we get there, that mechanization wave will explode the amount of data and the complexity of precision ag. It’s going to be exciting, but there’s going to be more data to manage and more complexity in the process.
“Agronomy, compliance, precision ag – all of these different capabilities are merging together and the complexity of our markets, liability, compliance globally, are growing and irreversible trends. All of these streams are merging together,” he says. “Operators aren’t going to be able to work in a vacuum, and not embrace modern tech or modern capabilities and operate efficiently in the future.”