Agrilyst Provides a Platform for Indoor Farmers to Understand Their Data

Allison Kopf is the Founder and CEO of data and analytics startup Agrilyst, a platform designed to optimize indoor farming.

From our archived reporting at iSelect Fund’s Davos on the Delta conference earlier this May, Allison Kopf, Founder and CEO of Agrilyst, spoke with EQ about her Brooklyn-based Ag Tech company.

Kopf discussed the agriculture analytics startup, the rapid change in agriculture and how the industry will need to shift in a future driven by millennial consumers. New consumer-driven demands, she says, will lead to a more diverse variety of healthier, locally-sourced foods that have a reduced impact on the environment.

Making Agricultural Data Usable

Kopf explained the problem Agrilyst solves: agriculture generates massive amounts of data, but farmers and growers have no way to gain insight from it. “Data lives everywhere and is not usable. So I built a software platform that would essentially bring all the data into one place and help growers improve their margins,” Kopf explained.

At Agrilyst, Kopf and her team streamline the organization and communication of relevant data for small to enterprise-sized indoor farms, creating opportunities for growers to more quickly react to the demands of consumers, so rather than producing according based macro trends, growers can focus on breeding for specific, higher-value buyers.

This aligns with Kevin Van Trump, another featured speaker at Davos on the Delta, and his call for ‘de-commodification’ in agriculture. He argued that US producers cannot compete on price internationally, but that if growers switch to specialist and niche crops, they can compete based on their higher margins.

Millennials Rising

Multiple speakers at Davos commented on how the growing influence of the Millennial Generation will affect agriculture. Van Trump, in particular, noted that Millennials care far more about ethics and the providence of their food than previous generations — and growers and distributors must adapt to this in order to succeed.

Asked about her ideas on generational change, Kopf pointed to the example of the “baby carrot.” Market researchers knew that consumers were snacking more and marketers saw an opportunity. They worked with growers to breed more cylindrical carrots that facilitated easy cutting and snacking.

“It was one of those times where the sort of market trend, coupled with marketers, coupled with […] actual production lined up. That doesn’t always happen.”

The baby carrot, she explained, is one example of how big, accessible datasets analyzed in real-time could have accelerated breeding towards consumer demand. Breeding companies like Benson Hill Biosystems and Indigo (both present at Davos) could make use of that consumer data to speed up their breeding processes, and create market equivalents of the baby carrot more often and with a shorter lead-time.

On Founding an AgTech Business

When asked for advice for entrepreneurs starting up in agriculture, Kopf explained that her technical expertise and the fact that her startup is a data play was very useful in securing funding. This is because investors generally place a high value on analytics ventures. Meanwhile, since she founded her business, investors have become much more bullish on agriculture and tech companies that want to make a difference in the space.

When Kopf raised her first round, several years ago, the prevailing attitude among investors was, “What are you doing?” Investors doubted how technology could impact farming, or whether farmers would adopt these types of tools. Now, investors have a better understanding of the importance of tech in farming and the extent to which farms are ready and willing to adopt new technology..

Firms like Agrilyst are an example of the inflection point in which the ag tech market currently stands. They will facilitate the changes growers and distributors must make in order to move from low-margin commodity farming to value-differentiated crops in order to compete in the global agricultural market.

For the full unedited interview,