Building a Global AgTech Platform – Part III: Opportunities Ahead

Building a Global AgTech Platform – Part III: Opportunities Ahead

This article is part of a series by Aric Olson, President of Jain Irrigation, Inc., on how Jain Irrigation built its global AgTech platform in  a short period of 5 years. Read Part I: Acquisitions are Integral to Strategy and Part II: Challenges and Strategies for Implementation.

During the last few years, there were noticeable challenges in the Western United States getting and keeping farm labourers. There were even stories of crops that were left in the field un-harvested due to the lack of available labor. Growers had to plan around not only availability of water and land, but also farm labor.  

Due to the increased labor costs and availability issues, growers have been more rapidly pursuing automation. They are trying to automate as many tasks as possible on the farm, including irrigation which is labor intensive for certain crops. Farmers are now looking for the ability to turn on/ off pumps with field valve control from their phones or computers, whereas in the recent past they would have their irrigators drive the fields to manually turn on valves. As farms become larger, it also became much easier to manage large blocks of acreage using automation for the irrigator, in effect multiplying an owners’ time and effort across larger acreages.  

With our acquired and internally developed hardware and software, we are in a great position to immediately begin helping the grower automate irrigation on their farms.  

We can also deploy our agronomic and diagnostic tools to better help the grower with the choice of when and for how long to irrigate. These key decisions can be made utilizing over 10 years of farm data acquired with the Jain-Puresense acquisition. Soil moisture, local weather information and history can be utilized in machine learning models to accurately predict how deep the water from an irrigation event travels through the soil - Whether the irrigation event reach the roots, or if the event goes past the roots and the water, fertilizer, and energy is wasted).

Jain Irrigation's Drip Irrigation System Arrangement

The accurate prediction of soil moisture, paired with the upcoming weather forecasts and associated ET (evapotranspiration) can lead to simulations for getting water to the root zone (no more nor less). Taking this one step further, Jain Irrigation will have the ability to then further automate the irrigation cycle by asking the grower where they want the water to be (at what level in the root zone), and irrigation schedules can be automatically sent to the pump and valves through our automation systems. 

We will also take a satellite space view of the field correlated to the point source information we have. We are really the only company in this current position, with so much soil moisture and infield data, automation control capability, and the use of machine learning to deliver this leading solution that saves labor and resources (water, energy, fertilizers), helping the grower farm better.   

There are increased regulations in California and other parts of the country for the amount of ground water that can be pumped. Surface water utilization will also be regulated to ensure that basins are in balance. Due to agriculture’s nitrogen run-off and ground water leaching challenges, you now need to manage and report on Nitrogen usage and how it relates to what the crop utilizes in many parts of the country. The focus will be to manage the applications of nitrogen appropriately so that the grower will get a good crop, while also ensuring that there is no waste or pollution.

Management of water and nitrogen (most forms of nitrogen are water soluble and readily flow throw the soils with water movement) will provide significant business opportunities. With our monitoring and controls systems, we can help growers apply the appropriate water and nitrogen with the right timing for maximum yield with the lowest environmental impacts.

The future is bright for the Jain Irrigation, Inc. Through smart, strategic, and timely acquisitions, along with internal parent company support, the division is set to provide globally leading technology to farmers to fulfill the mission – Leave this world better than you found it.

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Building a Global AgTech Platform – Part II: Challenges and Strategies for Implementation

Building a Global AgTech Platform – Part II: Challenges and Strategies for Implementation

This article is part of a series by Aric Olson, President of Jain Irrigation, Inc., on how Jain Irrigation built its global AgTech platform in  a short period of 5 years. Read Part I: Acquisitions are Integral to Strategy here. Look out for the finale Part III releasing in coming weeks. 

“What we found with our investments in Ag Tech is that it is far easier for a large multi-national company to make “bolt-on” acquisitions to an existing footprint.  In many cases there is no need for duplicate G&A staff, buildings and locations. These savings alone along with some minor market-place pricing adjustments and focus on selling the value are enough to take cash-burning startups into a breakeven situation.  The “bolt-on” acquisitions also obtain benefits of a more secure future with a stabilized and larger entity. The agriculture and irrigation technology customers also get a sense of security in their large investments knowing that the company has a better chance of existing for support in years to come.”

Jain Irrigation Systems Limited (“JISL”) has a globally integrated work force across India, Israel, Australia, and the United States, to name a few countries. 

R&D is focused on the development of agronomic applications with product management out of India, United States, Australia, and Israel and software development out of India, Ukraine, United States, and Australia. This unique talent pool helped in dealing with the initial challenges of integrating all of the technologies, different programming languages, different interfaces and so on that we had acquired from around the world into a common platform.    

Once the integration was complete and we proceeded to commercialize our technology offering, we learned of new challenges in selling and servicing growers. Growers in the United States and other countries have struggled to extract the full benefits of technologies offered by most market participants. Small startups entering the market promising major technological breakthroughs or massive yield gains for farmers have largely under-delivered and/or have run out of cash before reaching scalability. 

With regards to sales and pricing, we found that even when a technology/idea is relatively proven in the sector, there can be large pricing swings and demand elasticity for the technology/idea. We learned the importance of the sales teams to market and develop a value proposition for more accepted technologies/ideas and for management teams to ensure margins can be sustained in the product / service being sold. The difficulties experienced in the industry have made growers skeptical and hesitant towards readily adopting new technology.  

We found that it takes local and committed field support and distribution to be able to grow sales and the incentives offered to the sales and distribution network have to be greater than usual to ensure the product is pushed. Through our experiences we have explored direct models, dealer models and hybrids to arrive at the right combination.  

It is clear that in order for larger scale and rapid growth, one needs a strong and committed dealer network. As a result, we recently invested in the two largest micro-irrigation dealers in California to get closer to the grower, to be able to sell and deploy technologies through their sales and marketing teams and to build an entry point as all of their new construction projects could put in monitoring and automation starter kits and be designed in such a way that technology upgrades sales would be much easier to make and provide value at a much lower cost of ownership for the grower. For JISL, there were other added benefits with the investment in distribution.  

Now with an amazing technology platform that includes the the ability to provide all irrigation components after the pump (and solar pumps for some projects), our own distribution in California and one of the industry’s best global supply chains (where the best and highest quality irrigation products that come from India at a low cost/high value), our competitive future looks bright.

We can confidently say that we have an unrivalled irrigation and technology platform and are best placed to expand on the opportunities we have created. 

In Part III of this series, we explore the opportunities that lie ahead for the AgTech industry. 

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Building a Global AgTech Platform – Part I: Acquisitions are Integral to Strategy

Building a Global AgTech Platform – Part I: Acquisitions are Integral to Strategy

This article is part of a series by Aric Olson, President of Jain Irrigation, Inc., on how Jain Irrigation built its global AgTech platform in  a short period of 5 years. Look out for Part II and Part III releasing in coming weeks.

Jain Irrigation, Inc (“JII”) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Jain Irrigation Systems Limited (“JISL”) based in Jalgaon, India.  In 2015 JII developed a strategic plan to create a leading AgTech irrigation company with a billion dollar target valuation. At around the same time, Mandala Capital invested a total of USD 120 million across the Jain group.

From 2015 to 2019 the company acquired Puresense Environmental, Observant, Pty. Ltd., and ETwater Inc..  Also, JISL’s sister company, NaanDanJain, acquired Gavish Control System (a leading nursery and greenhouse controls company) in 2014.  JISL also formed a partnership with Agralogics.

One of the many strategic acquisitions undertaken by Jain Irrigation. Agralogics is the leading provider of data infrastructure for the AgTech space.

Post the Mandala investment, JII had managed to bring together leading start-ups in remote sensing and irrigation automation and integrated the different technologies and supported their developmental roadmaps.  At the same time, JISL, through the funds from Mandala Capital, made significant internal investments for the development of irrigation controllers, solar power controls and pumps, and fertigation pumps and controls. 

By incorporating acquisitions as an integral part of the strategy, JISL could provide all of the leading agronomic monitoring tools and capabilities to its customers, as well as develop the ability to control irrigation systems, all in a short period of time.

In Part II of this series, we discuss the challenges faced and strategies for implementation.

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