Agtech start-up Arable to measure crops and weather with IoT
Agtech start-up Arable to measure crops and weather with IoT

Agtech start-up Arable to measure crops and weather with IoT

New Jersey start-up has raised $4.25m to launch crop and weather monitoring IoT device, the Arable Mark. 

Much of the focus on IoT technology in agriculture has been directed towards the sky, as drones provide farmers with a cheap and efficient way to measure crop health and map out terrain. But aerial technology has its limitations: few affordable drones are weatherproof, and truly autonomous missions are being held back by a combination of regulations and capability.

New Jersey agtech startup Arable is taking a more grounded approach, with a deceptively simple product designed in part by the creative talent behind connected devices from Fitbit, GoPro, Roku and Nest.

Their consumer-oriented design process has led to the company’s flagship product, the Arable Mark, a device that the company describes as “an intuitive, easy to use product” that installs “in minutes”. And it appears to be catching on. Arable has announced a successful Series A round – taking its total investment to $5.75 million – as it aims to expand its operation to meet international demand for its first product.

Read more: IoT in agriculture — sowing seeds of innovation

Solar-powered crop and weather monitoring

The Arable Mark is a solar-powered device capable of measuring more than 40 individual environmental data points. The differences in microclimates across a single farm, for example, can be significant, from drop size and intensity of rain to temperature and humidity.

The Arable Mark can connect to external devices, such as cameras or soil probes using WiFi, cellular networks or BlueTooth.

“By collecting the weather [data], we are able to develop field-level weather forecasts that make use of large-scale weather models that have been corrected for the local microclimate. Because so much of crop growth depends on temperature, light, rain, and these core drivers are very patchy, we are able to bring the large forecasts down to scale,” said Arable CEO Adam Wolf, talking to ZDNet.

Read more: John Deere ploughs furrow as Industrial Internet pioneer

Low cost, big data solutions for agriculture

In a blog highlighting its product testing in Zambia, Arable describes how its technology might be applied in emerging markets around the world:

“Precision agriculture is being rapidly embraced by the food industry to grow more with less, create the perfect plant and make the food supply chain more efficient while reducing the negative impacts of farming that frequently contribute to climate variability. What makes this time exciting for global food systems is how low-cost solutions and greater connectivity allow these technologies to be accessible across emerging markets.”

Low-cost sensor technologies combined with big data allow farming communities to keep track of natural resources. Arable has also launched an agribusinesses platform that allows clients to do that more easily, with an overview of weather impact and seasonal progress across hundreds of fields.

Although the launch of the Mark comes at the same time as Arable’s new insights platform, it’s clear that Arable sees the potential applications of its first product as wider than just tech-savvy farmers.

“Our initial product is an entry-level product priced to be appropriate everywhere from Napa Valley to Nebraska, to rural Africa, where it can be used to back weather-based insurance,” Wolf told ZDNet. “We’ll quickly be sold out of our initial run of 600 units, and we’ll be making about 1,400 later this summer to continue filling the backlog of demand.”