Interview with Ceres Imaging CEO: Reliable science-based products are critical in building trust with farmers
“The belief in the science-based services and products has been driving the growth of Ceres Imaging, we are now the world’s leading company in agricultural aerial imagery,” Ceres Imaging CEO Ashwin Madgavkar said in an interview with AgroPages. The California-based agtech startup is an aerial spectral imagery company that providing insights about crops to farmers.
What is your company’s story?
Ashwin Madgavkar founded Ceres Imaging in 2013 and recruited a talented core team of scientists to develop the hardware, software, and know-how that has made the company fast-growing and well-loved by customers.
I began developing Ceres Imaging while I was working as a sugar farmer in Brazil and Colombia. I saw the incredible potential that data could have on farmers’ lives, so I began exploring how to couple advances in imagery and data science to help farmers make better decisions. I launched the company back in 2012 and partnered with a team of PhDs from Stanford University to develop the product. We began by experimenting with different technologies, including drones and satellite images, but eventually selected aerial imagery as the best technology to provide meaningful insights for farmers. Today, Ceres Imaging is the world’s largest agricultural aerial imagery company and we’re currently operating in Asia, North America and Australia.
Ceres helps producers master the elements by predicting water, fertilizer, pest and disease issues weeks before they become apparent. We provide producers in specialty and commodity crops relevant and actionable data backed by validated science. One of the tools that I’m most excited about is our chlorophyll index, which solves many of the problems of traditional NDVI tools by helping producers understand nutrient rate deficiencies to support in-season variable rate applications. Our team of in-house agronomists and customer support specialists works with our customers to ensure they gain the most value from our insights.
What do you believe about the future of precision agriculture?
I believe precision agriculture will continue to grow on a global scale. The winners in this space will be those companies that provide scientifically rigorous insights that are relevant and easily usable for producers.
In your view, what are the biggest challenges for an agtech startup company?
There are so many agricultural technology products that over-promise and under-deliver. In the imagery space, there were many drone and satellite companies that had a lot of colorful pictures but weren’t providing real value to their clients. As a result, many producers were left with a bad taste in their mouths and it’s been a major effort to educate folks on the differences between aerial imagery coupled with rigorous data science as compared to other imagery sources like drones and satellites.
If you’re committed to building real value for farmers, you need to focus on your product and get the technology right. We’ve spent six years perfecting our product and verifying its value through research studies with UC Davis and the University of Minnesota, among others. Our focus on science and verifiable in-field results has been vital in helping Ceres Imaging build trust with producers.