50 Most Trustworthy Companies of the Year 2019

An Interview with Ollie Roberts, Pasture.io Pty Ltd Founder and CEO: ‘Our Satellite Imagery, Weather Data, Farm Records, and Machine Learning Environment Disrupt Remote Pasture Measuring’

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“We remove the constant stress of where to graze livestock 365 days of the year.”

Australian dairy farms rely on grazing pastures as their primary source of feed. Accurate and timely measurement of pasture biomass is integral for effective grazing management practice, however few Australian dairy farmers record pasture mass or growth rate objectively. Keeping that in view, a system using satellite images has been developed to measure pasture biomass at a paddock-scale in Australia. The system has borne fruit in empowering farmers to be the best at what they do with leading AgTech.

In light of the foregoing, we’re thrilled to present Pasture.io Pty Ltd.

Pasture.io is an online web platform that compiles and crunches farm pasture data and ruminant nutrition giving a simple yet powerful pasture management solution for increasing farm productivity and profitability.

The company was incorporated in 2014 and is headquartered in Hobart, Tasmania.

Ollie Roberts, Pasture.io Pty Ltd Founder/CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

Q. Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?

Pasture.io was initially set up to solve an issue on my family dairy farm. This issue was underutilizing farm data to optimally feed cows and grow pasture for profit. The first iteration of Pasture.io was in a spreadsheet format from 2006 to 2014. By 2014, there was a pressing need to convert the program into a web-based platform. This allowed a wider spread of adoption with farmers. The initial platform was built to handle manual data inputs by farmers, which proved to be a barrier to adoption. In 2018, we had a breakthrough with our proprietary remote pasture measuring models. This breakthrough meant that we were able to overcome the limitations of satellite imagery for measuring the quantity of pasture in a paddock and deliver accurate pasture measurements automatically, thus removing the barrier to customer uptake.

Q. How successful was your first project roll on? Share the experience.

The first project roll-on taught us a lot in terms of listening to the audience and understanding the drivers of traction; through this learning we experienced success. This success paved the way for our team to deeply understand our customers’ painpoints and to build the foundations of the platform we have today. I am not saying the early years were easy, it has been a hard-long road of reaching where we are today and I thank the early years for guiding us here. It is true that you learn from your mistakes and that is what drives us and our company’s success today.

Q. What kind of responses have you received from your consumers over the years? How have they motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?

Our customers come from across the spectrum of painpoints to be solving in their farm businesses. The thing about agriculture is that it is biophysical economics, which is a highly dynamic environment for service. This means we have quite a number of competing systems, feedback, requests, and so on to work with. Pasture.io essentially measures how much pasture is in a paddock so the farmer can make the best grazing decisions on the quantity of pasture and/or supplements to allocate. This brings an array of mixed responses from farmers who say “why bother measuring grass when it just grows”, to farmers that say “I love having peace of mind in knowing that my animals aren’t going to be underfed”.

Q. Is your company a leader or a follower? Do you formulate your own core values?

I’d say we’re a leader, as we formulate our own core values. These values are core to our ethos and what drives us to solve our customers’ painpoints. We’re a company with highly passionate people who like to push the boundaries in what we do. In saying so, rather than meeting standard practices, we strive to develop leading practices. We believe this is how we demonstrate our core values to customers and peers alike from improving everything from customer acquisitions to gaining word of mouth referrals.

Q. What do you feel are the reasons behind your company’s reputation?

As an early-stage startup, I believe a lot can be contributed to not only producing a world-first service but a reachable company that customers can pick up the phone and talk with. We put a lot into customer success and keep the customers up to date with what we’re doing in the company. To be profound, without our customers there is no company and without trust and transparency, there is no relationship. It is this relationship between us and the customer that we work hard on improving.

Q. Are there any factors that have played key roles in shaping your organization’s road map?

A major barrier for us to overcome was that our target market is time-poor. This meant that we needed to develop automation into our service for collecting different data points to feed into our models. We now automate the streams of data from external sources such as satellite imagery and weather data and combine this with the farm records and activities in our platform.

Q. If you have to list five factors that have been/are the biggest asset to your organization, what would they be and why?

  • Understanding the problems we are solving first hand with our own experience with on-going personal links with businesses in the industries we serve.
  • Being completely honest and transparent with our customers and holding a strong moral obligation to deliver value.
  • Our team is passionate about delivering value and for working hard to meet customer expectations.
  • Putting social and environmental values first with the goal to relieve the mental burden on farm owners and managers who make daily tactical decisions on-farm.
  • Developing a strong focus in our business on the customer’s definition of value, where we should allocate our resources for creating opportunities, and how we should distribute our learnings back into the community.

Q. Building a culture of sustainability inside an organization is very important to maintain a reputation in the global market. How is it true for your company?

This is very true for our company. We’re building an environment where we all work remotely; everyone takes responsibility for their areas of expertise and where we’re all as important as each other when decisions need to be made. We are a small team that live across most states of Australia. Face to face time is enjoyable at conferences when we make extra time to bond and have fun together. Otherwise, we’re in regular contact with each other and as a group via messaging, phone calls, and video hook-ups. Fostering a free and empathetic workplace culture is integral to driving our company sustainably internally.

Q. Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?

As any business owner, I would like to steer our business to high levels of success. This success would be a testament to the value and core ethos we strive to lead with and to the strong relationships we build with our customers.

Ollie Roberts: A Formidable Leader

Ollie Roberts, founder, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Pasture.io. His background is in agriculture, working predominantly with dairy farmers and AgTech. He has founded two AgTech web platforms including Pasture.io. The other one is called Milkflow.io. He has worked with the University of Tasmania in delivering phone and tablet-based pasture modelling apps and with the University of Sydney overseeing its robotic dairy operations. Mr. Roberts continues to work with universities on several projects such as the Smartfarm, run by the University of New England, and The Women in Agri-Tech, run by the Central Queensland University.

“We’re easing the daily pressure on farmers by automating farm management decisions.”

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