Mutlu Ozdogan, co-founded and Jim O’Brien, co-founded
If you asked a farmer, ag lender, or crop insurer what the number one top concern for the operation is -- their answer would be to manage risk -- risk that the crop gets planted, risk that the loan doesn’t default or that the recent flooding does not lead to catastrophic crop losses driving up insurance claims. To best manage risk, the industry needs information. However, publicly available data is rarely timely and raw data collection and analysis bring separate challenges. In the end, companies are left to make billion-dollar decisions with anecdotal data.
Agrograph, a Wisconsin-based startup co-founded by Mutlu Ozdogan and Jim O’Brien, brings together data, technology, and automation to accurately predict and visualize field-level forecasts across the globe. The Agrograph platform delivers on crop yields, land suitability, gross revenue, field volatility and more through satellite observations, weather data and machine learning algorithms. This solution empowers companies to manage risk and operate with confidence.
“Agrograph is oftentimes confused with precision ag or a satellite company, but we are neither,” said O’Brien. “We are carving our own space in the agriculture market, targeting folks who support farmers, not the grower themselves.”This includes crop insurers, agricultural lenders, grain merchandisers, along with retail brands that utilize the Agrograph platform. Companies leverage Agrograph’s online database to better identify regional production and commodity supply while better pricing products and services to match the risk of their clients and understand the likelihood of loss within their business.
Agrograph’s data solutions are a modern approach to what companies already do. Publicly available data often lacks the granular insight needed to manage field-level risk for the approximately 300 million acres of farmland that drive the US ag economy. With Agrograph, individuals now have access to every crop, growing in every field, around the world both with in-season and historical perspectives. “It’s amazing that today’s advanced systems for grain merchandisers, ethanol producers, and brokers still rely on quarterly reports from the US Department of Agriculture that are comprised of farmer surveys and phone calls -- billion-dollar transactions are made with ‘intentions’ and ‘moving averages’ because for decades the USDA was the only benchmark the industry knew, says O’Brien”.
The company’s co-founders understand more than just the data; they’ve worked in the industry that supports farmers. Their individual backgrounds make the entrepreneurs perfect for the markets Agrograph is targeting. Ozdogan holds a Ph.D. in geography with an emphasis on remote sensing and crop modeling. This expertise pairs well with O’Brien, an accomplished entrepreneur responsible for helping both startups and corporate innovation projects get off the ground.
The company’s Wisconsin zip code is no accident either. “The Midwest is at the heart of production agriculture. Living and working here, we understand the unique challenges of agriculture - commodity prices, the weather, things that keep folks up at night,” Ozdogan explained. “The agriculture community wants to work with people who can relate to their industry.”
That understanding led them to the decision to add a fifteenth crop to the Agrograph database; industrial hemp. According to Ozdogan, the gaps in production, quality, and supply facing the industrial hemp are easily solved through their ‘Agros’ platform. Agros is a Greek term for ‘field,’ a unique reference for Agrograph’s online platform.
No reliable estimates can quantify the difference between what is published as registered hemp acres versus what is actually planted acres. For the 41 US States that have approved industrial hemp programs, only a handful of states allow public access to registered hemp acres; growers, processors, and traders often have no reliable sources to benchmark production. This lack of data regarding supply, amongst many other unknowns for hemp growers, breeds a ‘wild west’ atmosphere as the winners and losers get sorted out. For the risk management side of the industry, someone like an insurance agency, an ag lender, or a CBD distributor, access to Agrograph’s information is a game-changer.
Ozdogan offered sustainability as another example of Agrograph’s future efforts. “Transparency is at the core food and fiber production today, but it’s difficult to demonstrate in the field,” he explained. “We are currently scaling the platform to serve as a report card for companies striving toward social responsibility targets.”