Prepare for the grant as if it’s granted: How Agtech startup FluroSat secured a $3 million research grant


The FluroSat team. Source: Supplied.

Agtech startup FluroSat has secured a $3 million Cooperative Research Centres Project (CRC-P) grant, fast-tracking it in its mission to make data insights more accessible for the agriculture industry.

The grant will allow FluroSat to develop a scalable predictive agronomic analytics system, in partnership with Agworld, PCT Agcloud, AgLink Australia and CSIRO.

Speaking to StartupSmart, FluroSat founder and chief Anastasia Volkova explained the technology combines imagery and farm records with scientific models to produce recommendations for how to optimise a crop, allowing it to reach its full potential, and giving agronomists better value.

In December 2017, FluroSat secured $1 million in funding from CSIRO Main Sequence Ventures and Airtree Ventures, plus $700,000 in grant funding.

Since then, the startup has seen “phenomenal growth and development of the product”, Volkova says.

Already, the startup had its MVP and had conducted trials and validation procedures, she adds.

“Last year was about validation and commercialisation.”

Now, the startup has users in seven countries across the world, and Volkova is focusing on growing the business in Australia and the US.

Specialise and collaborate

The grant funding represents “a really important step for the agtech industry as a whole”, Volkova says.

It will provide an end-to-end process for decision-making, she adds.

Using data from the farm management system, weather stations and satellites, the system will send recommendations back to the system, “where agronomists can access it”, she explains.

The aim is to give agronomists science-based tools “to supercharge their work”.

And, in Australia’s agricultural tech scene, collaboration is a key part of moving the needle, because the majority of startups and businesses specialise in a particular area.

The trick is “being open about specialisation, being straightforward about it, and not trying to build tools that replace others”, Volkova says.

In Australia, the food production market is relatively small, and so for agtechs, the main market is overseas, she explains.

“We need to unite to go overseas with an offering that is thought through, because we believe our platforms and our solutions are better, so if we integrate it gets even better,” she says.

If each player does one thing especially well, collaboration means a better product in the end.

“Homogenise it, package it together and it’s going to bring a lot more value.”

Apply as if you’ve got it

FluroSat has secured its fair share of government grants, Volkova says, but when it comes to those dependent on industry collaboration, she notes it can be difficult to take the lead.

“We need to get everyone to agree, and be liberal about how we do it,” she says.

But the best way to go about it is to consider the outcome for the customer.

“Seek the ways for all the partners to benefit, but most importantly for the customer to benefit,” she advises.

Also, she suggests making sure you fully understand what the grant is about. If it’s about collaboration on research and innovation, for example, there has to be a clear innovative research angle in the application.

“It has to be relevant,” she says.

Finally, she says collaboration has to start early, and this means partners should come together and iron out any issues before going ahead with the application.

“It’s good practice to come together with a partnership, assess everything, and prepare for the grant as if it’s granted already,” Volkova says.

“Because then people have a different hat on.”

Imagining you have secured the funding makes you think about what you need to do and the resources you need, she says.

Different issues, questions and considerations come into play, she adds.

“Imagining you’re about to do it, what’s the plan then?” she asks.

“It gets people into a different head space.”

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