FarmShots was founded in 2014 by Joshua Miller, who at the time was still in his undergraduate studies at Duke University for electrical engineering. FarmShots is headquartered in the Research Triangle Park in NC.
FarmShots grew quickly and was acquired by Syngenta, a large multinational company, in 2018 giving farmers a view of field conditions. One of the big challenges in agriculture is that a lot of time and money is spent looking for diseases and bugs on a farm. Farmers would often have to pay people to look for problems and that is really labor intensive but FarmShots found a way to use satellite imagery to detect plant health by analyzing absorbed light from field images. So instead of spending a lot of time and money looking for affected plants, they can take an image and get an exact map of where plants are affected. This saves labor and chemical costs because they can see exactly where diseases are so they only have to spray the affected area, limiting the amount of chemical they use by about 30%. This in turn prevents runoff.
Joshua said that his inspiration for creating FarmShots goes all the way back to his high school days where he worked on a chicken farm and fell in love with the farm and agriculture in general. He also always wanted to get into the start-up world. He said that the biggest challenge for him in creating FarmShots was a personal one. It was the personal struggle of being okay with the risk of starting a start-up as many of them often fail. He knew that it wouldn’t be a tech or market challenge. Going to Duke made it even more difficult because he saw many people going off to work for big companies and there he was taking a big risk. In the end, he decided it was more important to invest in learning, rather than the dollars of a big company.
FarmShots can now be found all over the world from China to Brazil. The software can display data on multiple devices including smartphones giving individuals access anytime and anywhere. Syngenta acquiring FarmShots further helps improve their goal of improving global food security by “enabling millions of farmers to make better use of available resources.”
The biggest challenge now is fitting to international markets. Agriculture is different everywhere; some things remain the same but what farmers care about differs everywhere you go. For example, what a farmer in China finds tough may not be the same for a farmer in Brazil and vice versa. The biggest challenge now is catering to specificities to international markets.
To learn more about FarmShots you can visit their website here.
Written by IE Cleantech program intern, Vivian Le who is an Environmental Cultural Studies major, Class of 2021