50 Leading Companies of the Year 2021
The Silicon Review
Irrigation is an important part of agricultural practice. In recent times there has been a rise in the need for the strategic management of irrigation to meet economic objectives and promote water-use efficiency. An increase in demand for food products, climate change threats, and environmental protection has put farmers under intense pressure. To make sure that we have a sustainable future, we have to reduce water wastage and develop new ways to maximize the benefit from the water used. Management is vital for an irrigation system’s success. The irrigators can reap profit from the investments made on irrigation equipment only if they can use the water supply efficiently. There are various companies providing strategic irrigation management services globally, but one that stands out from the rest is GroGuru.
GroGuru helps farmers make more money by increasing crop yield and more efficiently using water and other scarce resources, in a sustainable way. GroGuru does this through the deployment of a strategic irrigation management solution. Think of it as hardware-enabled Software as a Service (SaaS), or Internet of Things (IoT) for AgTech. GroGuru collects underground data near the root zone of the crop and communicates that data to the Cloud. In the Cloud, the company adds additional data from its strategic partners and then applies machine learning and AI to make recommendations to farmers about when and how much to irrigate for optimal results. GroGuru provides the information to the farmer via a simple, farmer-friendly user interface that the farmer can access on their computer, tablet, or mobile device.
In conversation with Patrick Henry, CEO of GroGuru
Q. What motivated you to develop a dedicated technology platform to address the needs and challenges of farmers?
The company was initially formed to focus on commercial gardening. Farooq Anjum, Ph.D., our founding CEO, wanted to create tools to help novice home gardeners do a better job. He soon discovered that this was a crowded market where it was difficult to prove a strong value proposition, especially without strong retail channels. In late 2015, Farooq developed a relationship with another of or co-founders, Jeff Campbell, Ph.D., who had a history of successful development and commercialization of soil sensors. While knee deep in mud in the middle of a cornfield, trying to install cable-based sensors, Jeff thought, ‘there has to be a better way’. This led to the pivot of GroGuru to commercial agriculture and the development of GroGuru’s patented wireless underground system (WUGS), which enables the permanent installation of soil sensors, without cables, in annual field crops like corn and soybeans.
Q. What are the factors that contribute to the success of GroGuru?
First, at its core, GroGuru is a technology and crop science company. The GroGuru team has expertise in wireless systems, AI, UI design and development, and agronomy. Second, GroGuru is solving a significant problem for farmers. So, we need to build relationships with them and gain feedback and insights from them about our products and services. Third, GroGuru is developing world-class sales channel partnerships. Fourth, GroGuru is in the process of developing strategic partnerships with key ecosystem partners that are providing best-in-class complementary parts of the overall solution. And fifth, GroGuru has successfully navigated through a complex environment of different geographies, crop types, irrigation practices, and government regulations.
Q. It requires special technical knowledge for successful operation in a modern irrigation method. How do you prepare farmers for this change?
Farmers are smart and hard-working. They have a sense of their most significant problems and how to make money. They are some of the best business people on the planet. One of their big challenges is the sophisticated nature of running a complex farming operation, coupled with the bombardment of new technologies. Any solution that is presented to a farmer must be easy to use and solve a major problem. It also needs to clearly deliver a solid return on investment (ROI), ideally within one growing season. The GroGuru solution does all of these things.
Q. Tell us about your subscription model and how successful it is?
GroGuru’s solution is agnostic to the irrigation system, telemetry, and soil sensor technology. GroGuru does have our own soil sensor technology and our own telemetry solution, but we are also willing to work with key strategic partners to deliver a bundled solution to the market if that is best for the customers. We offer a turnkey hardware+software/SaaS solution and also a software-only SaaS product called GroGuru InSites. Customers can purchase hardware, use a lease-subscription model, or a pure SaaS business model.
Q. Compliance is important for any organization. What are the measures you adopt to comply with regulations?
The GroGuru solution actually helps farmers meet new and emerging regulations regarding water usage and limiting the leaching of nitrates into the groundwater. As it relates to business practices and regulations, we work with an extremely reputable partner for manufacturing and a very strong outsourced HR and legal team.
Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
We will be announcing some new telemetry capabilities, some new software features and some new strategic partnerships in the coming months. Stay tuned!
Meet the leader behind the success of GroGuru
Patrick Henry is the CEO and Co-Founder of GroGuru. His initial involvement with GroGuru was as an Angel investor and strategic advisor to the company. Mr. Henry is a serial entrepreneur, with multiple exits, including and IPO that lead to a $1B+ valuation on NASDAQ. He is an expert on growing technology businesses and companies, and developing strategic partnerships.