What if I told you there were two weathers? The weather we humans experience, and a different weather… experienced by plants! No, that’s not a (really bad) sci-fi series I’m pitching to Netflix. It’s how Arable CEO, Adam Wolf helped explain to me what his company does.
Founded in 2014, Arable creates the Mark sensor and an accompanying cloud-based data platform to help food producers and growers better understand the conditions under which their crops are growing.
Let’s get back to the two weathers. “Human” weather is comprised of hot/cold, rainy/dry, etc. But plant weather also includes the amount of moisture in the ground, ambient solar and thermal radiation, etc. The Arable Mark is a compact device that is packed with all kinds of sensors including acoustic and spectrometers, that detect 40 individual data streams related to that plant weather and health.
While Marks are used and are useful on farms, it’s actually food producers — companies that use those crops to make other food — who are Arable’s main customers. “We realized that the food side of the world, the processor and production side are totally detached,” said Wolf. “They want to link, but there are very few mechanisms that do that.”
For example, a wine label will use grapes from a variety of vineyards. By having growers implement Marks in their fields, the wine makers now have insight into how those crops were grown before the yield arrives for production. This way, they can compare different sites and make more informed decisions about where to make future purchases.
While the producers are footing the bill, growers benefit from the data Arable collects. According to a 2017 USDA report, there are two million farms in the United States, covering 911,000,000 acres of farmland. Wolf says that there are just ten thousand crop advisors to help farmers with tasks such as crop and pest management. That’s a lot of land and farmers and not a ton of people to help, which is where an automated system such as Arable’s comes in handy. One Mark device can cover a field ranging from 5 to 160 acres.
But in addition to enhanced, on-the-ground, data-driven decision making, the Arable enables growers and producers to provide the traceability that consumers are increasingly demanding. Consumers want to know more about where and how the food they buy came to be. Producers can use the data Arable collects to provide proof of certain marketable claims. For instance, the Mark’s microphone can record rain and even birdsongs to prove that a particular brand of coffee was indeed shade grown.
Arable is currently in use on six continents across 16 different countries covering 22 different crops. The company has offices in Princeton, New Jersey and Oakland, California, and has raised “a few million” in venture funding.