Regardless of your path in life, whether for a wedding or an anniversary, flowers can bring joy to many people. But the process of getting flowers from the soil to your vase is often a complicated one.
Flowers need a precise amount of sun or light exposure to mature, and the risk of insects and pests is ever-present and requires constant vigilance.
Durham-based startup Information Patterns is hoping to give the flower industry a makeover, helping farmers grow their crops in more predictable ways while using fewer chemicals and producing less waste.
“Almost half of the flowers that are grown never make it to their destination,” said Gabriel Coch, the Founder of Information Patterns. “That’s the problem. Too much waste, a lot of toxicity, and total lack of reliability.”
Information Patterns, which is a semi-finalist for the Spring 2022 cycle of NC IDEA‘s $50K SEED grants, formed under its current mission of streamlining the flower growing process in 2017. But before that, Coch, who hails from Colombia—where 70 percent of the flowers sold in the U.S. come from—had originally started Information Patterns in 2003 as a location-sharing technology to help during emergencies.
But when Coch saw the opportunity in the flower industry, he went to work on developing sensors that can autonomously connect and analyze data regarding temperature, humidity and other crucial factors.
“Imagine that you have a contract with Costco and you have a million dollars worth of inventory in one greenhouse,” Coch said. “Imagine that if you don’t pay attention to these variables, the population of mites doubles in 24 hours and eats half of your crop. You lose half a million dollars in 48 hours.”
Coch compares his tech to having a heart monitor when a patient has high blood pressure. You need to be able to monitor the conditions that will give rise to flower deterioration.
When Covid hit, initially some farmers had to close down their operations. Ultimately, though, Information Patterns has found a more open-minded customer base.
“Farmers are recognizing the importance of using technology,” Coch said. “One of the side benefits of the unfortunate pandemic was that people became much more aware of the importance of technology in their everyday lives.”
Now Information Patterns has rounded a corner. They’ve participated in the RIoT accelerator and looked ahead to even more product development.
“We’re on the other side of the pandemic now and we’re growing a lot,” Coch said.
Now Information Patterns has designed a new sensor built specifically for the flower industry, Coch said, and they have high hopes for it. The startup markets the product and the rest of its farmer-focused efforts under the name AgroPatterns.
“It’s not just a temperature sensor,” Coch said, “but it’s a sensor that has very unique qualities for very unique specifications to help complement our offering. We’re hoping that this product evolves on this niche market as well as maybe becomes applicable to other perishable markets.”
This could be in farming crops like strawberries, blueberries, lettuce and tomatoes or even in the cannabis industry where similar problems emerge when growers blanket-spray chemicals to prevent pests.
Coch also foresees Information Patterns playing a role in allowing consumers to see how sustainably their flowers were grown when purchasing them from the market. It could be similar to how coffee shops often spotlight their sustainable growers.
“I’d like to be able to have a more reliable way for the people that purchase flowers and sell the flowers in this country to be able to trace their origins,” Coch said.