Startup Challenge Semifinalist: AgGrow

Team Leader:
Wei-Yin Ko, GEN’18
Team Members:
George Bumgardner
Ben Rhodes

Elevator pitch: AgGrow seeks to become the premier marketplace for structured data in agriculture by providing free yield estimation through technology already used by farmers.

Where did the idea for your venture come from?
The idea came through an interdisciplinary collaboration– I (Wei-Yin) am currently doing precision agriculture research in deep learning on crop images so I’ve seen what is possible and know how to utilize the technical resources available. However, throughout my experience working in a research lab I’ve witnessed firsthand how research is often bottlenecked by either lack of data or un-maintainable labeling methodology that was only developed for narrow one-time applications for the researchers themselves. The result is a tremendous lack of efficiency: most of the time is spent on either acquiring more data or converting data formats. This inefficiency extends to corporate ventures as well, since the vast majority of the machine learning algorithms are trained in-house. Bearing this in mind, I was visiting George one day during break and met some of his family friends who are local melon farmers in NC. In discussing my research with these farmers, I discovered that great opportunity exists for improving yield estimation. Conventionally, precise techniques are too expensive to execute and efficient ones are often very inaccurate. Through utilizing computer vision to automate the process, precision and efficiency can be achieved. By putting the needs from both tech and agriculture industries together–AgGrow was born.

How will your venture change the world?
By giving the farmers the ability to get crop counts (and eventually other predictive information) for free, we are saving time and money for farms of all sizes. As such, this product can improve the efficiency of the entire agriculture industry. Moreover, accurate yield estimations also provides the farmers leverage in negotiating contracts with buyers, which will also improve the overall finances of their farms. Thus, AgGrow will change the world by enhancing the economics around the agriculture industry.

Fun Facts:

  • Wei-Yin spent a month backpacking in the wilderness of Alaska (it was his first backpacking trip)
  • George is in countless Ultimate Frisbee teams and has recently played in a tournament in India
  • Ben was born in Jupiter (NC)