Precision Farming Startup Outfield explain the benefits of EIT Food's Accelerator Programme
Outfield, a UK-based startup is helping orchards to grow sustainably, by improving efficiency and reducing food waste on commercial fruit farms. Learn about their innovative platform and how the EIT Food Accelerator Network supported their journey.
The idea: drone technology to improve yield
Outfield is improving efficiency and profitability for growers on fruit farms through their yield measurement and orchard management system. This system enables growers to work alongside drones to assess the trees in their orchard to determine the condition of each tree and how much yield it will produce. The system is easily embedded into existing drone technology, so growers can simply buy an affordable drone and launch it inside their orchard. As it flies over the orchard, the drone takes images of the trees which are then fed into their cloud computing platform that analyses each image to assess the condition of the tree and the fruit it is growing.
For growers with large orchards, it is almost impossible to assess all of the trees at once, whereas Outfield’s system assesses every tree across every hectare for variability across the orchard. Surveying 10,000 trees in 20 minutes, Outfield is helping growers make management decisions on the ground in real-time.
Who is behind the idea?
Co-Founders Jim McDougall and Oli Hilbourne launched Outfield to address some of the most pressing challenges in agrifood including food security and climate change and importantly, the impact this has on growers. They wanted to support the digital revolution in agriculture, by creating a management platform that was valuable to grower’s and their businesses.
Both Jim and Oli’s backgrounds equipped them with the knowledge and skills needed to make their idea a reality. While Jim’s background in environmental and social governance helped them understand the problem at hand – what data is currently available for growers and where are there still gaps, Ollie’s background in aerial imaging and drone technology helped to drive the venture forward.
After spending a few years designing aerial imaging solutions, they realised that horticulture was where they wanted to make a difference, due to challenges around food waste and yield optimisation. More broadly, they wanted to be part of the solution to increase agricultural production by 40% by 2050, to feed a growing population with less natural resources.
What are the benefits of yield measurement for growers?
Yield management is a challenge for growers. Currently, the average estimated yield for fruit on an orchard is out by 20% on the day it is harvested. This is mainly due to farmers not knowing the true condition of their fruit with large quantities being ‘imperfect’ and not meeting the visual criteria demanded further along the supply chain. This can lead to much of the fruit being wasted before it has even left the farm.
Using Outfield’s technology enables growers to monitor their fruit 2-3 months ahead of its harvesting date, to monitor its condition and make any necessary adjustments. For example, Outfield’s solution can be embedded into other technologies such as precision sprayer systems, to give each tree the optimal dose of the spray it needs to maximise its production. This enables sales teams to purchase accurate supplies of spray products to reduce waste.
Importantly, Outfield strives to work alongside growers, as ultimately they are the ones making the decisions and managing the orchard. By providing them with rich and granular data, Outfield is empowering growers to make data-informed decisions that can improve their yields, increasing the overall profitability of their businesses.
Support from EIT Food Accelerator Network
Outfield participated in EIT Food’s Accelerator Network where they received support with structuring their business and defining their business model canvas. Outfield valued the opportunity to attend sessions with experienced mentors who helped them to think about their offering and its tangible benefits in a structured and strategic way.
The Food Accelerator Network enabled Outfield to pause and reflect on their journey so far and map out the next phase of accelerating their business and taking their solution to market. EIT Food also guided them through customer validation and the importance of targeting the right customers who would really benefit from their solution.
Since the programme, Outfield have launched their yield management system in the UK, France, Italy and Poland, with plans to launch in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
“Yes, I would recommend EIT Food’s Accelerator Network for companies that have defined their idea and have a solid understanding of who their customers are and what direction they want to take. You need this information when joining the sessions to be able to make the best use of them. For companies at this level, the programme is incredibly useful!”, Jim McDougall, Co-Founder.
“The biggest value for us was the tangible benefit from the programme and taking the time to do strategic and structured thinking about the projects. When things are exciting you want to keep pushing and keep going, but as a company grows and scales the strategic decision making is absolutely critical.” Jim McDougall, Co-Founder.
“There were some great networks, it was very useful meeting other people on the programme. I still keep in touch with some of the mentors and some of the members of the cohort.”, Jim McDougall, Co-Founder.
Learn more about Outfield
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