Start-up Spotlight: CropTrak
Aaron Hutchinson and Richard Clark are former farm kids who harnessed their entrepreneurial skills to build solutions for the military and agriculture industry.
Their most recent venture, CropTrak, developed the first crop scouting application for the iPhone in 2010.
CropTrak isn’t your typical startup by measure of years in business, but their transformation into a data company not too long ago accelerated their focus on a supply chain solution. Now, CropTrak’s software platform manages every source of data on a farming operation: from crop planning, contracting, field monitoring, product delivery, to payments.
“We replace a farmer’s spiral notebook with software available on mobile phones and tablets,” says Lon Gretillat, vice president of sales and marketing for the company. “We have migrated data starting at the grower level up to the food companies that they're selling to, because that data is becoming even more critical to the companies interfacing with the consumer.”
Data informs decision-making and leads to more efficient operations. But to get to that point, Gretillat says they first begin working with stakeholders to establish a data dictionary.
“You'd be surprised at how many people have different definitions for what an acre is,” he says.
Every data element is defined and the basis for calculations is established, which leads to safeguards in the quality of data. Gretillat calls it “correction at the source.” CropTrak does this for each customer, meaning the platform can be customized to an operation’s specifications.
And one of the founding principles of the company is that data remains the farmer’s.
Future in the Supply Chain
In addition to solving data problems for farmers, the CropTrak team is focused on promoting safe, affordable, and sustainably-produced food.
“One of our goals is to give our large food processing company customers real-time visibility of what's happening at any stage in the supply chain,” Gretillat explains.
Those customers utilize the platform to source ingredients, select the region in which they are grown, track and manage the entire growing process, and settle with the grower upon harvest. When the entire crop growing process is under one umbrella with real-time information, then food companies can navigate the unexpected, like unfulfilled contracts due to challenging crop conditions, earlier.
“The carbon calculations that we’re collecting on the operational side can also be used for sustainability metrics,” Gretillat says. “If a farmer wants to opt in to provide their data in an aggregate fashion, they can. It’s no longer the food companies against the producers, it’s both working together and saying, ‘How can we do this better?'”
CropTrak’s ability to evolve over the years has been a major strength. Next, their solution may expand into animal protein.
Gretillat says, “We want to continue supporting our customers, ensuring they have accurate data to make better decisions, wherever that takes them.”
In September 2021, Benson Hill announced a partnership with CropTrak, whose technology will help accelerate the collection of agronomic data to improve product performance and farm sustainability. The information is delivered to CropOS, Benson Hill’s technology platform, which combines data analytics and artificial intelligence with plant biology and food science to produce crops that are optimized for taste and nutrition. Jason Bull, chief technology officer of Benson Hill says, “Our collaboration with CropTrak accelerates in-depth agronomic data collection from our farmer partners, increasing our ability to benchmark and provide verifiable sustainability metrics to our customers and other stakeholders.”