AgLaunch May 2018 Newsletter

AgLaunch Notes

Vol. 5, No. 2                                                                  May 29, 2018


I hope the summer finds you well! The spring brought many opportunities for AgLaunch and our teams. We were proud to host Steve Case, founder of AOL, and his Rise of the Rest tour at the Agricenter as part of their larger roadtrip stop in Memphis. Our teams were able to showcase their technology, and we were able to share our vision for the food and agriculture sector in the region. Memphis was well represented and many positive things happening in the city were recognized.

As summer is upon us, we’re settling into the keystone offering of our programming: Field Trials. In this issue, we want to profile a few of the technologies and farms working to ground-truth agtech innovations right here in the Mid-South Delta region. We are proud of the diverse group of companies and farms participating this year. It is indeed the largest group of trials we’ve ever executed.

Startups are working directly with farmers to test their technologies and collect meaningful data. New this year is a cost-share pilot project with Tennessee Department of Agriculture for Tennessee farmers trialing AgLaunch companies’ technology. Additionally, AgLaunch was awarded a $125,000 grant from Tennessee’s Agriculture Enterprise Fund to create model farms for innovation and research.

Additionally, this summer, we’re offering a first-time AgLaunch bootcamp in partnership with Knoxville Entrepreneur Center to serve Tennessee agtech teams. This week-long agtech bootcamp being held on the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture campus in Knoxville from July 9-13, 2018 allows teams accepted into the program best-in-class agricultural entrepreneurship programming and have access to investors, mentors, and farmers. Interested companies should apply here by June 8, 2018.

We continue to look forward to the fall and beginning a new round of Phase I programming, evaluating our field trials, and working to promote the food and ag sector in the Mid-South. Your continued support is so important for our work, and we value your partnerships. As always, if there’s something we can do for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Kind Regards,


Summer Field Trial Highlights

As our farmers and agtech companies deploy their technologies across farms in the Mid-South, we wanted to highlight some of the innovation happening and being tested in the region.


Matthew Rooda, SwineTech Founder and CEO, grew up in a family of pork producers and quickly learned the value of a good work ethic. In 2013, Rooda was working as an assistant farm manager and farrowing manager on a farrow to finish farm in Waterloo, Iowa. It was here that Rooda battled the historic problem of piglet crushing with no avail. The team had implemented all of the necessary caregiving procedures, but nothing seemed to solve the problem. Swinetech uses advanced algorithms and acoustic engineering to detect when a piglet is in distress by analyzing its squeals. In the moment of a crushing event, the SmartGuard® monitor communicates to the SmartGuard® wearable to tell the sow to stand up.

Working with Tosh Farms, based in Henry County, Tennessee, SwineTech will run a major trial focused on reducing infant mortality in swine operations. Tosh Farms will use 23 of SwineTech’s SmartGuard patches on more than 1,000 sows this summer in AgLaunch’s largest 2018 trial.


Kilimo provides a decision support tool for irrigation management in extensive agriculture. Using satellite, climate, and on-site data, it feeds their proprietary Big Data engine to make the best possible irrigation prescription for each crop, improving yields up to 30% and water use efficiency up to 70%. Kilimo will be doing an irrigation management trial to determine if Kilimo’s solution provides some ROI when compared to the farmers’ best management practices (BMP). The target will be improving the gross margin of the crop by using less water and increasing yields.

Kilimo will be completing multi-site trials on pivot irrigation at Growing Acres, Mid-South Family Farms, Sneed Brothers Farm, and Norwood Farms to demonstrate the ease of use and efficacy of this technology against traditional irrigation decision methodologies.

 EarthSense is a robotics and machine-learning startup that is currently providing its TerraSentia robots to seed breeders and crop scientists to help them create better crop varieties faster by getting more accurate trait data from field trials. TerraSentia is a revolutionary new ultracompact, autonomous, smart robot for managing critical agricultural challenges like herbicide resistant weeds. EarthSense products currently in development will help farmers directly – including robots designed for field scouting as well as robots that can perform tasks such as weed removal throughout the season.

EarthSense will be testing its robots in real-world field conditions this summer with Mid-South Family Farms and collecting multiple data sets throughout the growing season at Brannon Farms.

microBIOMETER® allows you to estimate the microbial biomass in your soil in 10 minutes for 10% of the cost of a lab test. Results are read and stored on your cellphone or tablet and in the cloud for access across all your devices. microBIOMETER® measures the amount of microbes less than 100 µm in size in a sample of soil or compost tea – these are the microbes that form the basis of the food web. It is well documented that microbial biomass is the best indicator of soil fertility: nutrition poor and challenged soils have very low microbial populations and that successful remediation results in an increase in the microbial population. The nutrition available to plants in a growing season is mineralized by the microbial population. microBIOMETER has shown that the microbial population of a compost sample reflects its nutritional level.

microBIOMETER will be conducting trials this summer related to the microbial biomass in field using certain fertilizers, conservation techniques, and cover crops. They will be working with Sneed Farms, D&J River Farm, Batey Farms, and Rose Creek Farm to measure the effects of different management practices on soil microbial content.

GroGuru develops an application for monitoring and analyzing soil data. This enables growers to efficiently utilize limited water resources to help manage costs by providing them with real time and historical soil moisture, salinity, and temperature data.GroGuru will provide and install soil sensors that work wirelessly even when buried deep under the soil. These sensors can measure moisture and salinity thereby providing guidance to the farmers about optimal irrigation times and frequency, resulting in yield maximization. GroGuru will run trials at Norwood Farms this summer.

WISRAN is an agtech company providing live farming with an action-based business and process intelligence and measuring time variations of farming activities. WISRAN is developing a software-as-a-service platform to increase agricultural operation efficiency, initially targeting improving worker productivity and agricultural machinery logistics. The company has also developed a tablet equipped with an accelerometer and a GPS to be placed in each piece of agricultural equipment to source telematics data.

WISRAN is conducting field trials with Yeargin Farms and Growing Acres to track efficiency and equipment logistics this summer and fall.


Rise of the Rest Bus Tour Cultivates Stronger Support for Job-Fueling Startup Businesses, May 8, 2018

Memphis One of 10 Cities Selected for FAA Drone Pilot Program, May 9, 2018

Billionaires: They Are Just Like Us!, May 10, 2018

Turn Old Malls Into Vegetable Hothouses? Memphis Set to be Heart of Food Innovation, May 11, 2018

AgTech Startups Highlighted in Nationwide Bus Tours, May 15, 2018

Davos on the Delta Puts Memphis At Center of Agriculture World, May 16, 2018

First Round of Farmer-Driven Innovation Trials Announced, May 21, 2018

Precision Ag Bytes 5/23, May 23, 2018


Ag Robot Speeds Data Collection and Analyzes Crops as They Grow, March 2018

Cross a John Deere with a Roomba, and You Get This Crop-Monitoring Robot, March 13, 2018

This Startup Just Raised $1.1 Million To Build Better Data Platforms For Farmers, March 19, 2018

Iowa City Drone Sprayer Company Gets Attention in Memphis, April 10, 2018

Rantizo: Precision Drone Spraying, April 11, 2018

Iowa Startup Power Rankings for April, April 30, 2018

Argentine Agtech Startup Kilimo Raises Expansion Capital, May 14, 2018

From L to R: Zack James, CEO and Founder of Rabbit Tractors, showcasing his quarter-scale model of his autonomous tractor to Steve Case as part of the Rise of the Rest tour stop in Memphis; EarthSense Founder and CEO Chinmay Soman and AgLaunch President Pete Nelson showing off the latest TerraSentia robot that will be participating in field trials this summer.

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