In precision agri, start-ups need specialisation

Geosys says its strategy of partnering with other specialised companies allows them each to focus on their strengths.

The chief executive of satellite imagery and agri consulting company Geosys says sticking to what you are good at is the key to thriving in the increasingly crowded precision agri market.

The Land O’Lakes-owned company’s recent partnerships with an on-farm weather company and a farm-management software company exemplify this strategy of specialisation, Geosys executives told Agri Investor.

A recent partnership with Pessl, which provides highly localised on-farm weather stations, means Geosys  can add their weather data to their own macro-level satellite weather data. Geosys director of strategic partnerships Dave Gephardt describes the partnership as “global, tweaked by local.”

Meanwhile, an agreement to provide its satellite imagery and weather data to farm-management software company SST software spares Geosys the complex task of building and maintaining relationships with a vast network of dealers and agronomists.

“We don’t go directly to growers, because access to the grower is the most complex part of the business,” said Geosys chief executive Damien Lepoutre. “We have to team with people that have access to the grower and know how to help the grower.”

In each of these cases, Geosys is using partnerships to build value for growers without getting distracted from its core strengths, said Gephardt.

“Geosys and SST, if you look at them side by side you could say they do very similar things,” he said. “But there are nuances and expertise that both companies have developed over 20-plus years of being in the business. Geosys is great at satellite imagery and remote sensing, SST is great at yield data and soil data. Each company does what the other company does. But they’re really good at different things.”

The abundance of companies competing in the agtech space makes this focus on specialisation and developing partnerships a more effective strategy than trying to expand across a broad range of services, said Lepoutre.

“Some of the newcomers to agriculture still think they can deliver everything,” he said. “Agronomics is complex, and access to the market is complex too. So there will be consolidation with these [newer companies] as they mature.”

Geosys provides data and analysis for risk management, supply monitoring, input sales and precision farming according to information from the company. The company was acquired by US agri and dairy co-op Land O’Lakes in 2013.