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Climate Edge

Problem

Currently, there is a large gap in the development of technology designed for smaller scale agriculture when compared to large commercial farms in the EU and USA. Large commercial farms have access to expensive precision agriculture machinery, such as tractor add-ons, but this technology is simply not applicable for the majority of smallholder farmers, leaving them at the mercy of their environment.

This most profoundly presents itself as pest/disease outbreaks, or extreme stress during periods of drought or frost. But there are also more foreboding long-term problems such as regional crop suitability, and long-term management adaptation to climate change.

For many of the regions we work (Central America, Africa etc), information on how to respond simply doesn't exist, because technology isn't available, and extension support is too expensive. So most farmers have to reply on word of mouth, or their own empirical knowledge. But as the climate changes, this approach is becoming more and more irrelevant.

Solution

Climate Edge gives smallholder farmers the information they need to sustainably optimise production in the short-term, and adapt to the devastating impacts of climate change. The NEXO, our low cost weather station, identifies which climatic variables are impacting yield and quality. Our software analyses this data and provides farmers with tailored information on what practices they can implement to build a stable and profitable business. This can come in the form of pest/disease alerts, or when to make key decisions such as planting or harvesting, in the short term; and long-term management advice, such as key risks faced and how to respond, for example, implementing cover crops to improve soil quality and control temperatures. We are looking to start with Coffee, Banana, Avocado, Potato and Tea production. These cash crops pose the perfect initial market: they offer greater returns, meaning farmers are more able to invest in technology; they are very well defined with a significant research base; and they are all under pressure to increase supply.

Uniqueness, Technology overview, barriers to competition

We see ourselves as the infrastructure which allows information to transfer from research to farmer. Our two greatest advantages are:

1) We are not developing novel models ourselves, but are partnering with the leading research institutes in the world. Researcher institutes produce the greatest scientific understanding of any sector, but they often struggle to scale the uptake of their work, which provide a clear synergy to integrate their work into our system. Competitors who develop their own models are often restricted to only working with one or two crops, or run into the problem model validity.

2) We have invested in developing our own hardware. Put simply, this means that we can offer our services at a fraction of the cost of our competitors who have to buy hardware in externally. This allows us to break into markets at much larger scale than the majority of players in this sector.

Market size and analysis

The market potential is enormous in the smallholder agriculture sector, and many are deeming it the next big frontier for innovation. If we take coffee as an example; 80% of coffee is produced by smallholder farmers (25 million in total). Our customers will be the farmer cooperatives, and the farmers themselves (depending on the market set-up). Working via cooperatives can be a useful step to reduce the cost to individual producers, and to tap into current networks and services that have been established by these organisations. Through our contacts in the coffee sector, we have an initial reach of approximately 180,000 producers.

Beyond coffee, our connections to NGO associated farmer cooperatives (such as Fairtrade), equates to an initial addressable market of ~2,000,000 smallholder producers. Although our serviceable market will be restricted to the initial crops listed above.

Traction

We are looking to release our products officially mid-2019. Before that point we are begin to scale-up through targeted partnerships: for example, we are working with Producers Direct in Uganda later this year (2018) where we will be installing 40 weather stations across coffee farms. We have also set up an MVP trial with a coffee cooperative in Honduras.

Core Team

Co-founders James Alden and Paul Baranowski graduated from Imperial College with an MSc in Environmental Technology. Disappointed by the lack of support for smallholder coffee farmers (especially regarding on-farm automatic data collection) they set out to make their own affordable weather station. Together with Product Designer Gabriel Brueckner (MSc/MA in Global Innovation Design) they designed and built a prototype and tested it with coffee farmers in Nicaragua. The startup has come a long way since: Co-founder and non-executive director Peter Baker’s longstanding expertise in Coffee has positioned Climate Edge as a strong consultant for international Coffee Producer organisations and distributors. Paul and James, were jointly awarded Young Development Agriculturalists of the Year by the Tropical Agricultural Association in 2017, for their work in Honduras and Nicaragua. Joined by an experienced electrical engineer (James Torbett) and software developer (Gilles Cochez), Climate Edge is currently deploying the third iteration of the NEXO Weather Station, moving towards a commercially viable product.
First Name Last Name Job Title Impressive Facts
James Alden CEO James was awarded Young Development Agriculturalist of the Year jointly with COO Paul. Whilst working for Imperial College London, James was responsible for business plan development of EC H2020 project 'EMPHASIS'.
Paul Baranowski COO Paul was also awarded Young Development Agriculturalist of the Year alongside James. Paul was invited to give a presentation to an FAO committee in Panama regarding climate smart adaptation.
Gabriel Brueckner Product Designer Gabriel has worked and studied in a multitude of countries including the US, Korea and Japan. Giving him a practical understanding of global design.

Ask, use of proceeds, milestones

- CE marking of NEXO weather station in preparation for market sales within EU. - On-boarding of additional software development team members, and statistical modeller. - Reduction of manufacturing costs to improve profit margin. - Marketing to increase scale within initial markets.

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