Water saving agritech solution, Goanna Ag seeks $10m investment to fund US expansion
‘What if your farm could talk to you, and you could understand what it was saying?’ Australian agritech startup, Goanna Ag, has answered that very question, with a low-cost accessible solution that acts as translator. CEO Alicia Garden explained, “Goanna Ag helps growers connect to their farm like never before, to optimise water management and maximise yield.”
Its proof of concept was Australia’s irrigated cotton market. “We started there for two reasons,” said Alicia. “The water use R&D was already done, so it was an easy market entry. And there’s an inbuilt recognition among Australian cotton growers that research – and new technology – brings benefit. There’s a much shorter bell curve to adoption.”
So short that, Goanna Ag’s GoField irrigation scheduling solution has grown from 10% market penetration to 50% in just two years – and is now seeking $10 million investment to support its expansion plans.
The rapidly adopted flagship product, GoField integrates in-field sensors, local weather data, crop growth stage, satellite imagery and analytics to identify precisely how much water the crop needs and when.
Its canopy sensor, which monitors plant stress in real time, is what sets it apart from the market. “The canopy sensor measures the temperature of the plant against the biological optimum every five minutes. Like humans, who function best at or below 37.5 degrees, each plant species has a specific biological optimum. When that level is breached, the plant goes into stress and stops growing.”
Other products use satellite imagery to measure crop health, by assessing how green the plant is or soil moisture probes to understand available moisture. But as Alicia explained, whilst useful technologies, both have limitations. “By the time the plant stops being as green as it should be, or the rate of water absorption slows, the plant is already approaching stress.”
As well as real time assessments, GoField forecasts seven-day plant behaviours, providing insight into when growers should irrigate in order to maximise yield, whilst avoiding crop stress.
“It shifts decision making from being reactive to proactive,” said Alicia. “That benefits every plant, regardless of crop. And for Australian irrigators, it’s especially critical, because it can take up to ten days for the water they order to be delivered.”
The benefits to cotton growers are clear. Through accurate, intelligent scheduling, GoField saves 1-2 irrigations per season – amounting to around 15-20% total water savings across the year. Cotton growers who follow GoField’s irrigation prescription, have shown yield boosts of between 10-40%.
Commercialisation agreement puts decades worth of R&D into Goanna Ag’s hands
GoField is the result of a decade of invaluable Research & Development (R&D) by CSIRO and the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC).
“We secured the commercialisation license for that research two years ago, and we’ve used the time since to prove it could deliver the benefit we anticipated. What we found is that it far outperforms anything we could’ve hoped for.”
Big name partnerships confirm GoField’s potential
Goanna Ag is not your traditional startup. Spun out of Delta Agribusiness, one of the largest input suppliers in Australia, its shareholder list boasts top-tier Australian agribusinesses such as: Delta, Westpac, GrainCorp and MH Premium Farms.
Noteworthy partnerships with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Bayer have shown how rapidly Goanna Ag has cemented its place as an agritech leader. Early this year Goanna Ag announced a $5.5 million project with GRDC and CRDC that will see the roll out of 100 inversion towers, from Emerald in central Queensland, to the Victorian border – to help grain and cotton growers identify hazardous temperature inversions to minimise spray drift incidence.
The Bayer project is focused on expanding cotton water use efficiency in Australia and beyond. “Bayer are one of the most significant supply chain providers in the Australian cotton industry,” explained Alicia. “They have set significant water use efficiency targets across their entire global portfolio. They have seen the results we have achieved with GoField and are partnering with us to deliver GoField to 300 sites each year for three years.”
Market potential extends beyond cotton and corn
GoField maybe the poster child, but Goanna Ag has a plethora of solutions for every farmer. And all are manufactured locally in Goondiwindi, Queensland.
“Our GoSense range of sensors lets farmers see what’s happening across their farm in real-time, more cost effectively than ever before,” explained Alicia. The range includes, the self-explanatory GoRain, GoTank and GoFuel sensors. Along with GoStorage, which monitors farm water storage levels; GoChannel, which measures water channel movements, and the GoWeather weather station. The data generated across all products is easily accessible to farmers on the GoApp user interface.
GoField is where Goanna Ag’s heart lies, and they’ve got big ambitions for it. GoField has already caught the eye of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), involving trials that helped the startup establish a commercial footprint in Texas. Now Goanna Ag, is looking to expand to the Mississippi, targeting both cotton and corn growers.
The US focus makes sense. “It's the most similar cropping system to Australia, and the market is significant,” said Alicia. “We’ll pick up cotton, corn, and soon enough, soybeans. So the opportunity and the impact we can make there is just so much larger.”
As a mark of its merit, Dr Paxton Payton, a leader in water use efficiency research with the USDA, is joining the ranks of Goanna Ag. “He asked to join the company based on the traction and the benefits that we're proving. We’re absolutely thrilled to have him on board.”
Beyond cotton and corn, Goanna Ag has aspirations to expand into permanent tree crops, horticulture and wine grapes. “We have started collecting data for a number of different crops,” said Alicia. “But our audacious goal is to get a device into every household to irrigate their lawn appropriately. Imagine the water savings there.”
Active investors sought to support expansion
Goanna Ag is seeking $10 million from investors to support its growth. 10% will fund the US expansion, 10% will support development of the new user interface and 20% will underpin development for new commodities. The balance will be operating capital.
The R&D allocation will underpin a 5-year R&D program with CSIRO, helping Goanna Ag rapidly expand their product offering. “Working with CSIRO provides access to a calibre of scientists and researchers we could never imagine working with,” said Alicia. “And we will be able to shorten the R&D cycle down from 10-years to enter a new market within 12-months.”
Alicia is looking for investors to take an active role in the company’s development roadmap. “Someone with expertise in expanding into US agriculture would be beneficial. As would someone with clear sight around how we can apply an ESG [Environmental, Social, Governance] approach to extract maximum benefits for the grower.”
Learn more about Goanna Ag’s commercial opportunity at growAG.com here. Alternatively meet the Goanna Ag team at the Australian Cotton Conference’s Innovation Alley, at the Gold Coast on 16-18 August, 2022. Register here.
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