Keith McCall, CEO and Founder American author Earl Nightingale said it best, “Everything begins with an idea.”
Ideas are what change the world—when put to the right use, ideas can transform the way we live and think. This is the very essence of Keith McCall’s inspiration to establish Pollen Systems to bring the power of data analytics to agriculture. It all started with McCall’s visit to Singapore when he noticed the massive artificial Supertrees: sustainable vertical gardens towering in a park near the city in an effort to help reduce CO2 emissions in the city. “When you think about measuring how much the CO2 emissions have reduced because of these artificial trees, you start wondering what you could do if you were collecting data from a variety of collection mechanisms and feeding that into a platform for analyzing the actions that are being taken in any farm,” says McCall, Founder and CEO of Pollen Systems. He realized that he could turn this into a business model, whereby through a “virtuous cycle,” he could synthesize the feedback gained from drones and aerial imaging, the data collected from ground sensors or IoT sensors, and manual input of the farmers to deliver actionable insights to the farmer at a specific growing point of a crop. The idea led to the inception of Pollen Systems—a company focused on reducing agricultural costs by helping manage crop yields, resource allocation, and pests.
“To us, “Pollen” represents data—visible and invisible—that pervades farms around the world. If you don’t collect and act on that data, it simply “blows away”! We harvest the data collected from drones and fixed-wing aircraft equipped with multispectral cameras, mobile, and IoT devices and turn it into actionable insights for farmers,” asserts McCall. The company offers its sophisticated software-as-a-service platform— PrecisionView™—that provides imagery and data through a web portal (PrecisionView Manager Portal) and the PrecisionView mobile phone application.
To us, “Pollen” represents data—visible and invisible—that pervades farms around the world. If you don’t collect and act on that data, it simply “blows away”! We harvest the data collected from drones and fixed-wing aircraft equipped with multispectral cameras, mobile, and IoT devices and turn it into actionable insights for farmers
The imagery and data are backed by the robust GIS (geographic information system) platform, ArcGIS, and are stored in the Pollen PrecisionView Cloud. “Our patented agricultural analysis software processes the information and turns it around to the farmers within 24 to 48 hours, which enables them to very quickly identify specific areas of the farm to be acted upon. Farmers can leverage these insights to manage their crop growth and vitality, identify irrigation and moisture issues, and discern pests and disease problems,” says McCall. The company has formed a strategic partnership with DroneHive, the leading provider of expert services for aerial data collection, to expand drone-based precision agriculture services throughout the U.S.
From measuring the crop vitality and determining issues such as over or under watering to identifying the correct nutrient or fertilizer for a farm and mitigating problems around crop growth in certain types of soil/ topography/climate—Pollen Systems helps farmers with it all. “We have specific crop profiles for each different type of crop, from grapes, hops, cannabis, citrus fruits to pistachios and almonds. Using those crop profiles, we collect data and provide information that can help farmers demonstrably improve crop yield and crop quality,” McCall notes. The company’s go-to-market strategy involves direct to farm as well as indirect sales through nurseries, pesticide, nutrients, and fertilizer companies. Pollen Systems works closely with nurseries to track the growth of a plant as soon as it is planted and maintain all information on that plant, which, in turn, provides the company with an uninterrupted data stream till the plant is harvested. The company also operates in partnership with large multinational companies who are testing their nutrients and fertilizers in fields and farms, helping them determine the effectiveness of the nutrients so that they can then apply these nutrients throughout the entire field to each specific crop.
Having started with a focus on vineyards in Washington, Pollen Systems has expanded its expertise over the years and currently analyzes over 20 different types of crops throughout the U.S. and Chile. Pollen Systems is in the process of becoming a multinational company that utilizes its technology in multiple different locations, languages, and cultures to truly impact crops throughout the world ecosystem. Pollen Systems had also piloted its services in Peru and South Africa before COVID-19 hit. The company is raising additional financing, a Series A round, to accelerate its operations internationally. Moving ahead, Pollen Systems aims to actively explore partnerships with pesticide and nutrient companies and is looking for business partners to help it expand globally in various regions.