Imagine technology that can sense if a plant is diseased before the naked eye can, technology that can autonomously treat that disease before it becomes a blight throughout the whole crop using different light frequencies. This isn’t the Twilight Zone or Star Trek. This is AgEYE Technologies.
AgEYE, based in Durham, is a combination of hardware and software designed to increase food sustainability and security among indoor farms using artificial intelligence. CEO Nick Genty calls AgEYE an “AIoT” product, meaning “Artificial Intelligence of Things.”
You can spy AgEYE for yourself when it presents at the CED Venture Connect Summit, which will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center from March 17-19.
Genty said he was inspired to bring AgEYE to life when he realized how fast the vertical farming market was growing thanks in part to increased demand from urban grocery stores, like Whole Foods. These indoor farms give customers in urban areas the opportunity to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables grown in their city, in any season. But vertical farming has its challenges.
“There’s a huge labor dependency,” Genty said. “Unlike traditional farms that are outside, where you typically have low-skill, low-wage employees walk up and down the field and count the inventory and do the forecasting for you, indoor farms are quite different. You have to be a borderline plant scientist to be able to understand the various dynamics of the plants.”
There is also the logistical challenge of indoor farms being hard to navigate because many of them are vertical, and farmers need to climb a ladder to properly survey their plants.
AgEYE uses cameras, environmental sensors and dynamic LED lighting to take care of plants on indoor farms without having to depend on human labor. It monitors factors like temperature, humidity and air flow and synthesizes that information to detect potential diseases, take and manage inventory and tune the lights autonomously.
Growers can track their harvest and view this data using the AgEYE dashboard app, but they don’t have to analyze the data themselves. AgEYE uses a wireless hub to make autonomous decisions instead of relying on information sent to or received from the cloud. This means that even if an indoor farm is in a highly dense urban area with interference issues or in a remote desert—such as in the Middle East—AgEYE won’t have operational issues.
Using the data it collects from a plant’s behavior, AgEYE can even use different kinds of light to help a plant fight off disease or help it grow larger.
“Oftentimes, when we talk about what we’re doing, it may sound like science fiction to some people,” Genty said. “When you see it in action, we’re changing the physical characteristics of these plants using just light.”
AgEYE was bootstrapped by Co-Founders Genty and John Dominic when it launched in 2018, and it kicked off its Series A fundraising round in January to finance the manufacturing and commercial roll-out of the product. AgEYE is currently being used in beta farms all over the world, from Canada to Turkey. The product has also captured the eye of the United Arab Emirates government, which invited AgEYE to present at its National Agriscape Summit in December, an event geared towards food security and increased plant health for the country.
In addition to their Durham office, AgEYE also has an office in Bengaluru, India. Genty said the location of the India office is optimal for continuing to sell the product in the Middle East and Asia.
AgEYE will be presenting in CED Venture Connect Summit on Tuesday, March 17. Genty said he hopes to gain more exposure from the summit, and he wants to show investors and consumers that AgEYE’s unique abilities are not just science fiction.
“We want to get people to see that there is a lot of advances that we’re making right now to help food security and food sustainability around the world,” Genty said, “and it’s not the future. The future is now.”