GroGuru asserts its presence in the Agriculture Technology “AgTech” industry, after being featured in the San Diego Business Journal’s most recent article. The article touches upon groundbreaking developments in the “AgTech” industry, and highlights GroGuru’s achievements in precision soil and irrigation monitoring systems. GroGuru’s product enables its users to more quickly and accurately make adjustments to their water consumption, which allows for decreased input costs to grow crops and maximize profit.
Reducing waste is another big source of savings. While the weather has gotten easier to predict, Larson said farmers would want to know if a storm was approaching to avoid overwatering plants. Other technologies are used to avoid the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides. Finally, Larson said, farmers also face a shortage in workers to help plant and pick crops. Robots haven’t yet taken over the harvest, but some greenhouses, where San Diego’s vast crop of nursery plants are grown, have found ways to automate planting and soil mixing. “We have a serious labor shortage, that’s driving the desire to mechanize,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of solutions to that yet.” San Diego’s tech startups are working to make the process of growing the food on our tables more efficient. From feed crops to organic produce, these companies see an opportunity to earn a stake in the farms of the future.
|AMOUNT OF FUNDING RAISED:||$325,000|
|REVENUE:||About $200,000 in 2018|
|NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES:||Nine|
|INVESTORS:||Patrick Henry, Radicle Capital, Right Side Capital Management|
|COMPANY DESCRIPTION:||GroGuru develops wireless sensors for commercial agriculture that can measure soil moisture and salinity.|
Home Garden Beginnings
A former Qualcomm engineer, Farooq Anjum’s startup is helping California farmers reduce water and fertilizer use. He co-founded GroGuru, an agtech company that buries sensors in soil so they can measure its moisture and salinity. Farmers can use this information to determine if their crops are being overwatered, if the soil salinity is too high, or if the fertilizer is being washed into groundwater. Anjum, who has a bit of a green thumb, had the idea while planting a garden at his new house. He wanted to use sensors to grow the best garden possible, but he didn’t find any devices that worked well. So, he created his own. At first, Anjum thought to sell the sensors to other home gardeners, but he quickly found commercial growers were much more interested in the product.
He said the solution can save farmers money — up to 20 percent in water savings — and lead to better crop yields. These factors can also affect the taste of the food, he said. For example, in June, Anjum sampled some cherries at an orchard in Washington. “Those were some of the sweetest cherries I had tasted in my life,” he said. But a stop at a different farm in San Jose yielded different results. “There was no taste,” Anjum said. “The problem is they applied a lot of water. If you don’t apply the right amount of water at the right time, that’s what happens.”
No Established Player
Anjum currently serves as chief technology officer of GroGuru. It was through a mutual friend at his most recent job, at OnRamp Wireless, that he met investor and GroGuru CEO Patrick Henry. “The idea, I thought it was a good one,” Henry said. “It just looks like a massive opportunity. There are other people in the market, but there isn’t an established large player.” GroGuru has deployed the first version of its product, a sensor attached to a pole that can be pulled out of the ground, in fruit and nut tree orchards in the Central Valley and in Washington. The company is working on the next version of its product, a battery-powered sensor that can be buried in the ground for up to 10 years, which it hopes to launch next spring. Without farmers needing to dig up and bury the sensors every planting and harvesting season, Henry said it could differentiate the company from its competitors. It also gives them the opportunity to collect more consistent data. “I think it has the opportunity to open the bigger part of the market that the other competitors have not been able to crack yet,” he said. “For annual crops, especially field crops … you really need a solution that can be permanently installed to open up the market in a big way.” The company currently has six farms using its product. Henry hopes to expand to an additonal 25 this spring, with anticipation of a bigger ramp-up next fall. The company is on target to hit $200,000 in revenue by the end of the year. GroGuru’s team of nine is currently housed in local tech incubator EvoNexus. Henry said the startup is currently raising funds to help fuel the company’s growth by hiring engineers and building out its sales channels. As with his company, Anjum said his home garden had also begun to bear fruit. He planted a pomegranate tree, for his wife, and tomatoes for himself. “We had some nice tomatoes this year,” he said.