Our contrarian view that drives our approach towards building an AI platform for Sensor Data. 4 minute ignite talk at #wppStream in Athens, 2016.
Our contrarian view that drives our approach towards building an AI platform for Sensor Data. 4 minute ignite talk at #wppStream in Athens, 2016.
Agritech start-up Connecterra Closes $1.8M Investment Round
Connecterra, the company that’s changing farming through their dairy health service, announced today that it has closed $1.8M of seed investment led by London’s advanced incubator Breed Reply, together with UAE based fund MENA Ventures (MVI) and Japan based DeNA Co Ltd, and angel investor Elias Tabet.
“A little over a year ago, we started with a vision to contribute to solving the problems that impact the future of our planet by combining sensors and machine learning technologies” commented Yasir Khokhar, CEO of Connecterra. “Today we are turning that vision into reality by bringing usable technology to farmers, helping them increase productivity and keep the herd healthier, while reducing the impact on the environment.”
“We are delighted to welcome our new investors on board”, Khokhar continued. “Their support, along with our outstanding technology team, will spur the launch of our first product making Connecterra a game-changer for this industry. We are excited about what the future holds.”
The funding will enable Connecterra to further develop their machine learning platform, and provide the company with the necessary funding to grow their team and accelerate the trial and delivery of their product to the market.
Founded in 2014, Connecterra is a tech company based in the Netherlands, that combines the power of sensor technologies and machine learning to provide a complete health monitoring service for the dairy industry. Connecterra’s end-to-end solution consists of a wearable device, which monitors the herd in real-time and transmits the data to a cloud platform for analysis and prediction of behavioural patterns. This allows farmers to free up labour time, improve milk production per animal and save a significant amount of money by optimising their breeding cycles. Connecterra is supported by Microsoft as part of their Bizspark Plus Program, and was chosen as the Alpha winner at Web Summit 2015 amongst 200 competing international startups.
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week I had the unique pleasure of taking the longest modern day flight from Amsterdam to Auckland to attend the mobile tech 2016 primary industry conference. Having never been to New Zealand before, I merely needed an excuse to travel and also learn about what is one of the major dairy markets of the world.
Dairy is everywhere in New Zealand, try if you will, it’s hard to avoid. Starting from the rather severe biosecurity requirements at the airport to the landscape dotted with grazing cows everywhere, dairy is integrated into the kiwi culture.
Reflecting on the two days I spent at the conference, here are some of my key takeaways:
The dairy Industry is under pressure
The impact of falling milk prices is at the forefront of farmers and industry professionals alike. Farmers are having to cut production, adding pressure to their investment capability while at the same time milk distribution companies are feeling the pressure of dropping demand from China.
While the government has yet to intervene, there are rumblings that the NZ government may need to step in to bolster this industry. Having said that, there is increased focus now on diversification from farmers and how best they can leverage their land, resources and skill to continue to feed international markets with their products.
Big Data, IOT, Drones and rural connectivity are major themes being explored
While the themes are not necessarily novel and the same level of discussions are taking place in the EU, there are early signs of adoption by value chain and farmers alike in New Zealand. Several companies and NGO’s have successfully deployed location tracking technologies to enable traceability. These are early signs of successful adoption of basic IOT/data driven technologies.
Telco’s also see this space as a major opportunity and have plans to create new connectivity options for data and sensor based technologies to rely on their infrastructure. However, rural connectivity is the long-tail and it may take time for remote areas to catch up with urban standards. The needs of farmers are far more basic than what current technology roadmap provides and these basic issues need to be addressed first.
Connecterra’s product offering is differentiated
The showcase of farm management, drone mapping, sensor data analyzing technologies was impressive to say the least. The slew of technologies that are able to map a field in multiple wavelengths, from drones or satellites is staggering and the fundamental technologies are getting better every day.
However, almost all vendors present the data and findings to the farmer leaving the end user wondering what exactly the vendor expects the farmer to do with the data?
Connecterra’s dairy health service delivers insights from data making them actionable and useable for farmers. The feedback we received on this particular aspect was very encouraging and highly differentiated.
Contrary to what one might expect, farmers and industry are not necessarily technology laggards but pragmatic buyers of technology. Given the right proof points of value and technology that works for the bottom line, purchase decisions are relatively straightforward.
Farmers need all the help in improving their work-life balance and basic P&L of their operations and if technology impacts this, then it’s a deal.
It’s been slightly over a week since our return from Web Summit. It has been a hugely rewarding experience and we are grateful to Web Summit and Audi for making this happen. We’ve had several folks approach us to ask what it was like, and how prepared we were. I thought it best to spend a little time to reflect on the past week.
For us, Web Summit began about a year ago during it’s 2014 run. I had spent some time tuning in live for some of the centre stage sessions and had pretty much made up my mind that next year, this it the event where we go public. We needed about a year to get our MVP build, tested and live and so we drew a line in the sand and set November 2nd as our deadline for ‘soft launch’. We had also decided that we will not make any attempts on PR or publicity till then.
The web summit process starts early, by January 2015 we had already started receiving emails on ticket discounts and for application to join the startup community.
We went in early and had purchased tickets and applied for Alpha by March/April. Each time Web Summit started a new milestone, the realization that we have to continue to make progress kept itself fresh. By May, we had signed up, had a few screening calls and were accepted into the Alpha Category of Startups. We didn’t quite know how many more there would be but we didn’t have to worry about that.
Our product development was going well we needed to set a clear goal and ‘vision’ of what web summit would be for us. We simplified this into the following goal:
“At Web Summit, on Novembe 2nd, we will be doing live demo’s of our end-end platform with a live video feed from a farm and real time detections on our platform. In addition, we will have signed up distribution partners and have a 1K node customer pipeline”
The above goal become our north star and we came back to this time and again to prioritize what we kept in our task lists and what we discarded.
Summer mostly flew by with our first field trials, followed by vacations and then we had about 3 months to go for November 2nd. At this point, we started preparing our investor pitch deck and also applied to the PITCH competition in September. About a month before, in early October, we were informed that we had been selected for the PITCH competition out of the 2K that had applied, 200 were selected. The list was public, it was on the blog and the competition looked tough.
Our deck had to be submitted by 24th October and at this point we were running at full speed on engineering, customer trials and working towards our milestone goal. We had very little time to work on the deck so we shuffled around a few slides from our investor deck and submitted it to PITCH. There. that was done.
Arrival and First Impressions
We almost didn’t make it. Ryan Air had messed up our check in tickets and well, long story short, we were the last to board the flight. Once in Dublin, we decided to spend the day preparing the strategy for the week. Who was going to do what, where and when.
The first impression was that this place was crowded! It was impossible not to see a startup somewhere. Of all shapes, sizes and types. And this was just one day, every day there was going to be a new set of startups on the stands and that meant there was almost no way you could get a sense of everything.
We had a few investor meetings on day 1 however due to bad weather conditions two could not make it and one that we made was a late stage investor so that wasn’t going to go anywhere. It was a slow, somewhat disappointing day as the realization sunk in that investor : start-up ratio was skewed, our ‘big leads’ didn’t show so we needed a change of game-plan.
We decided to call it an early day, went back at 1600 to the hotel and decided to rethink our goals. The plan was now to focus on the pitch startups, learn from them and split the team to focus on some of the talks see if we can cold call some investors.
Little did we know, the pitch on day 2 would change everything. The morning pitch session started at 11:15 and by 1300 we were told we were through to the semi final which was at 1430 the same day. I had to prepare for this even more so I skipped everything and started tuning my pitch. I was beginning to regret not spending more time on the slides, they looked a bit pedestrian compared to the others up there. The semi final was tough, we estimated a 50-50 chance to the final and by 8pm that day we were through.
The next morning, around 0800 we had people lining up at our stand. News had gone out that Connecterra was a pitch finalist and that attracted quite a crowd. It was all hands on deck so we started taking turns on manning our stand. I was holed up in a corner rehearsing the final.
Winning the final put mostly everything into complete overdrive. Twitter went ballistic and the media folks suddenly found us most interesting. We had a quick sync on our key messages for the media and then we split up to handle the interview requests.
The 48 hours right after the announcement were the most exciting and exhilarating but also challenging. We had a huge platform to get our message across but at the same time we had to be careful about what we said and didn’t say and we had to be perfectly aligned. We didn’t sleep much and were answering phone calls, emails and tweets way into the weekend. While the publicity was great, the most rewarding part came from family, friends and also leads from customers and partners.
It is still not over but going well. We’ve had super feedback and interest from all the right partners and investors and are working through each of them systematically. Being agile at this time has been key.
Advice to others on the Pitch
Many have reached out to ask why we think we won? While this is best answered by the Jury, here are a few things we think worked for us:
I hope this helps some of you heading to Summit next year. Good luck, its worth every minute.
We’re excited to announce that we have won the Alpha Pitch at Web Summit 2015.
Connecterra’s “Fitbit for Cows” wins 2015 Startup of the year at Web Summit in Dublin.
Sensors, Machine Learning and cloud based analytics helps dairy farmers increase herd productivity by improving animal health.
Dublin, 6th November 2015 – Connecterra, An Amsterdam based startup has won the 2015 startup of the year award by a jury comprising of senior executives from Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital and Audi.
Connecterra believes the dairy service will help farmers increase productivity per animal by up to 20% or more. This is the first such service available to dairy farmers which focuses on generating meaning from data and providing farmers with specific, actionable insights versus ‘more data’.
Connecterra has developed a sensor that measures the activity of a cow in 3D space and by leveraging its deep learning algorithms can detect various behaviors such as walking, eating, ruminating etc. This information is then modeled to provide farmers with health insights which help them reduce labor input and improve animal health resulting in higher productivity from each cow.
The approach also enables the platform to learn new behaviors of dairy cows and provide a continual value stream of insights to farmers.
In addition to providing farmers with insights, their platform also enables veterinarians to observe herd data and provide suggestions to farmers on improving farm practices. This helps democratize farmer knowledge to those that need it most and especially in developing countries.
Industry experts are hailing this product and technology as a breakthrough for an industry that has largely been lagging in its adoption of new technology innovations. According to Remco Schrijver, CEO of VetEffect, a Dairy Advisory consultancy:
“A product like Connecterra can help farm profitability as it provides targeted advice to the farmer, not just data”
Farmers are anxious to try the product and are awaiting shipment of the beta sensors:
“This product is critical to the success of my farm’s productivity”
– Shehryar Hamid, CEO of Infinita Dairies
Connecterra is currently raising its first round of capital of $2.1M and expects to make the service commercially available in the first half of 2016 after extensive field trials which are currently being conducted in the Netherlands.
The technology behind Connecterra is a blend of deep learning, Bayesian reasoning done at cloud scale. This innovative approach combined with sensors is unique and visionary.
According to the founder, Yasir Khokhar “This is the start of what we believe is the future of technology. By combining sensors, machine learning and cloud scale, we have created a unique platform that we will apply to multiple industries to help solve real world challenges.”
Connecterra was co-founded by Yasir Khokhar and Saad Ansari about one year ago and is based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Connecterra’s mission is to connect the analog to understand everything on earth.
We do this by building sensors for ‘offline’ real world objects and using our machine learning platform to learn behaviors. The insights we develop solve problems that matter.
Yesterday was a big day for us. At our first ever startup pitch event, Connecterra walked away with top honors with the maximum reward on offer. While official press will follow from the EU, here is the link to the tweet and photo: https://twitter.com/IsobelFletcher/status/644792664437714944
Organized by Smart Agri Food, an EU sponsored AgTech accelerator, we beat 48 AgTech startups across Europe to be placed in the top 3 that share the top rewards. This is a significant endorsement of our technology, approach and team for which we are proud and grateful to the organizers.
More to come!
Here is a preview of our first sensor devices that are hot off the manufacturing floor. The initial batch of 5 has arrived and more are in the pipeline as we go through a battery of tests on these first pioneer devices.
We’ve been a bit quiet of late, not that we’re a silent group, far from it, its just been raining bits and bytes recently. Take for instance a recent trans-atlantic trip during which one of our engineers decided to test if he could code using airplane wifi. We’re happy to report that you can debug cloud services while being in the cloud. Infact, one of the key deployment builds was posted during this flight. If you haven’t tried this yet, we highly recommend the joy of coding in an airplane; there is just something magical about the whole setup. It really brings home the power of connectivity from anywhere at anytime.
Moving on to a related note, our recent grant by the generous folks over at Smart Agri Food has helped compress our development timelines. Being a part of an accelerator that is intended to usher the European Union to a new level of technological prowess. The program has enabled us to bring together the smartest minds in the field of hardware design, artificial intelligence, agriculture research/smart dairy farming and yes, you guessed it, cloud computing. Additionally, we’re also building integration services to the EU Future Internet project utilizing the FI-Ware platform. We’re really excited about the prospects of this platform as it adds additional contextual data sources and also enables us to share our learning with other providers.
Recently we held an all-hands-on-deck hackathon in Amsterdam and we’ll soon unveil the results of our caffeine induced engineering. A big shout out to all our friends and fellow hackers on making this a really memorable session with tremendous energy.
As we look forward, in the coming months you can expect us to unveil more details about the dairy monitor service, well, lets just say this summer is going to be a busy one.