Hatch TEK Program 1
8 Aug 2022
Oz-IntelliFarm comprises co-founders Wenjing (Vivian) Wang, Jeff Peng and China-based, Wenyu Li. This team of highly experienced academics are specialists in the field of agtech IoT devices, venture capital, data analytics and information technology. They have previously been exposed to collaboration with some research projects in the agricultural sector focussed on 5G IoT technology, such as livestock monitoring through drone applications in Tasmania.. The team came into the HatchTEK program wanting to take their expertise and intellectual property to explore opportunities to leverage this into a product that solves problems for primary producers.
In approaching the Agriculture sector to identify potential niches for innovative agritech solutions, the team understood that their key strengths lay in data collection, analysis and interpretation. They took some time to explore where this might be best applied to best leverage this expertise into a solution that solved a commodity-specific problem. This may potentially then be adapted into other commodities. The idea was to build an integrated hardware and software solution that enables increased efficiency and data driven decision making for producers, with a particular focus on eliminating repetitive labour intensive and time consuming tasks on farm. The outcome sought is to improve efficiency and productivity outcomes as well as commercial performance. Potential applications were initially focussed on water management, soil management, pesticide management and livestock monitoring.
Hatch TEK Journey
Coming into the program the team did not have a specific commodity customer or solution in mind, however, they were excellent participants, attending all the sessions and worked enthusiastically and they were very coachable. Oz-IntelliFarm put particular effort in with their coach in the 1:1 sessions to narrowing their focus in on specific customer segments, in order to make meaningful progress and gain traction through the six-week program.
The team were clear in their understanding that the Lean startup skills that they were learning, will be transferable to other innovation ideas and customer segments at a later stage. For the HatchTEK program, the team decided to focus on controlled environment growing. One of the main challenges for a team with a strong technical and academic background was the lack of existing connections and knowledge in the agricultural sector.
In the first instance they were introduced to Georgia Beattie. Georgia is the CEO + MD of Bulla Park, Australia’s largest organic mushroom producer and a director of the peak industry body Australian Mushroom Growers Association. From this initial contact the team carried out numerous interviews with producers and participants in this mushroom value chain to validate some of their assumptions. This engagement and ground truthing with producers and industry was absolutely critical for this team and valuable insight was gained, with the team readily acknowledging how critical this process of customer discovery is to the product development process and idea validation.
The team were able to clearly articulate a Customer Value Proposition:
“We know that soil or compost monitoring & management for mushroom growers and orchardists is often complicated & labour intensive – but it doesn’t have to be.
Thanks to the 5G IoT, our Big-Data enabled solution makes it simpler than ever on below manual operational effort a farmer would normally do on:
-soil condition monitoring
-effort on manual triggering irrigation
-pesticide management to significantly increase operational efficiency and productivity
We aim at reducing 95% manual effort to drive commercial outcome increase by a minimum of 30%.”
Secondary customers in the horticulture and cropping industry were also identified and introductions made, with the team diligently following up on their customer discovery process. Key learnings from the program for Oz-IntelliFarm were around the importance of understanding and validating customer requirements and ensuring proposed solutions are designed with solving the validated customer problems in mind.
The Hatch program is well structured, run by a team with a helping warm heart that links our cohort group together as a strong alumni community. Do not try to fix all problems at once, focus on the most important one; where a solution can generate the greatest value.
The plan for the next three months for this team are focussed on continuing to document and validate customer assumptions for all of their customer segments, following up on additional connections made through their coach and the program cohort. They will also start detailed planning for prototyping and proof of concept trials with their newly developed network of industry stakeholders.