Agricultural technology has generated a plethora of digital solutions for growers to optimise farming operations. While these are promising, many growers are overwhelmed by the increasing number of tools and services and the inability of many to ‘talk’ to each other.
To illustrate this Hamish Munro, a farmer and co-founder of the startup Pairtree Intelligence, estimates that 80 per cent of growers have between five and 10 apps and digital platforms which they use for farming operations that are not interoperable.
Pairtree Intelligence specialises in the Internet of Things sensors, apps and imagery. Since 2018, the company has connected more than 130 different agtech and digital agriculture data sources and has more than 100 reusable app integrations for farmers, agribusinesses and agronomists.
“It is about data stacking in a centralised place to better inform on-farm decisions,” Mr Munro says.
Pairtree Intelligence provides three key services to agricultural industries: Pairtree PLUS, Pairtree White Labels and Pairtree Pipes (API).
Pairtree PLUS is a universal dashboard for farmers to access all of their agtech programs through a single login.
Pairtree White Labels allows consultants and agronomists to build ‘connected’ solutions on the Pairtree platform for geospatial and temporal (time) services. It allows clients to opt-in data to the service and gain improved insights and analytics for their operation.
Pairtree Pipes (API) allows agtech companies, corporates and agribusinesses which engage with growers to more-efficiently access growers’ data (with permission) for their own platforms.
Mr Munro had a personal interest in driving the startup. “We were involved in R&D extension projects that required farmers to manually enter data, which was not efficient,” he says.
“Our platform is built on the web and, as there are continual data updates, it is best used in the office for strategic planning. But while designed for a desktop, the dashboards are still ‘mobile reactive’, which allows their use on smartphones or tablets.
Complement not compete approach
“Dealing with a wide range of maturity in the agtech space – from long-term established solutions to startups – has been a challenge for us,” Mr Munro says.
We use a ‘complement and not compete’ approach, which has been accepted well by the agtech sector.
“Our integration partners have strong businesses servicing their clients, and we just need to add value to their data by integrating, aggregating and analysing the data for operational use.
“This is why we focus on the White Labels and Pipes API, because farmers still require consultants and agronomists to translate the data in meaningful and actionable ways.”
Growth and expansion
In 2018, when Pairtree started, there were three founders. Now the business has nine staff and four contractors.
“We have been continually building our services and now are at a point where we can facilitate farmers to share their data with permission.”
Mr Munro sits on the National Farmers Federation farm data code committee (as a farmer and agtech provider) and Pairtree was the first company to rewrite its terms and conditions to ensure farmers’ data is protected.
GrainInnovate support has ensured that Pairtree can focus on the grains industry. Since the investment, it has secured a large contract with Syngenta Australia to deliver disease models to farmers. Weather stations are used to calibrate the service to a location. This theoretical disease model tool is multi-crop and will allow for improved scouting by looking at disease risks over time, as well as understanding where paddocks at risk may be.
To help inform grower’s decisions around managing frost and heat, Pairtree is working with DataFarming and Hillridge, two GrainInnovate investees, in a national GRDC and CSIRO investment, ‘Frost and heat stress management analytics’.
Further, Pairtree is active in the livestock sector, so mixed farmers can connect livestock and grains information into a single platform.