Growing Ideas: Better data, better yields

Arable Labs’ IoT technology cuts waste, too

The Arable Mark is a data-gathering device the size and shape of a small Frisbee. Posted over a field of crops, it allows the farmer to monitor more than 40 different data streams, optimizing crop management and reducing food waste.

Arable Labs founder and CEO Adam Wolf is bringing Internet of Things technology onto the farm. It may seem an incongruous combination, but Wolf believes it is the best way to solve inefficiencies in the supply chain and thus solve food security issues.

“So many conflicts around the world come down to scarcity of food and water,” he says. “And the reason we can’t manage our food supply properly is because we don’t know what’s going on. I realized collecting data at field level could be incredibly valuable, not only for farmers who want to know what factors are affecting their crops, but also for other stakeholders like processors, regulators, traders and insurers.”

“Collecting data at field level is valuable for all stakeholders”

- Adam Wolf, Arable Labs

Information is power

Used with the Arable Insights cloud-based software platform, the Mark provides real-time data on variables like crop health, water demand and harvest readiness, weeds and heat levels. The data can facilitate disease prevention, save water and reduce yield threats. It also helps farmers model and predict yields, meaning they can tailor their marketing accordingly.

“A major issue in the food supply chain is that we don’t know what will come out of the field at any given time,” says Wolf. “We are supplying quality predictive analytics to solve that issue and ultimately help prevent the waste that occurs when food doesn’t make it from field to fork.”

Less uncertainty, less waste

The Mark’s potential to do just that was proven during a pilot at a major US firm of berry growers, where it helped reduce uncertainty about yield forecasts from 20% to 5%. The result helped Arable Labs secure US$4.25 million (EUR 3.52 million) in venture capital in 2017. As is so often the case for start-ups, securing funding has been a key issue for Arable Labs, with Wolf participating in Rabobank’s FoodBytes! pitching event and successfully applying for grants from the US National Science Foundation. Arable Labs is using the funds to continue the global rollout of the device.

User friendly: the Mark was designed by Fred Bould of Fitbit fame. See it in action.