For the average farmer, optimising pasture use is inherently complex, with different herd numbers, paddock growth rates, pre and post graze targets and target feed intakes requiring a myriad of tools and dashboards. Managing this requires a lot of manual calculations, ‘clicking’, guesses and communication with staff and quite often, the use of consultants. To solve this, pastoral optimisation startup Aimer Development has built an artificial intelligence (AI) enabled digital assistant (called Aimer) currently being tested across some of the country’s most complex and challenging dairy farms. The ‘Siri’ for farmers is New Zealand’s first digital coach in your pocket for the dairy industry and has attracted its first NZ$1 million dollars in investment from Sprout.
“Within an industry in which ongoing success relies on optimisation, the stakes are high. The very best farms can be $1,000-2,000 dollars more profitable per hectare per annum than their competition, and a large part of that is due to the successful management of pasture. Aimer has built a digital tool that will allow farmers to test and optimise the use of their pasture easily and at scale. For processors and retailers, Aimer is an effective way of supporting suppliers and customers to improve business profitability and economic resilience as well as meet increasingly stringent environmental requirements. For farmers themselves, Aimer places game-changing, predictive and intuitive technology into the hands of those responsible for on-the-ground decision making,” comments Warren Bebb, Investment Manager for Sprout.
Aimer Development is the fifth investment of over thirty NZ$1 million agritech and foodtech investments Sprout will make over the next six years, having joined forces with investment partners US-based Finistere Ventures, Kiwi dairy giant Fonterra and Israeli venture builder OurCrowd, as well as Callaghan Innovation’s Tech Incubator programme that was designed to support the commercialisation of early-stage deep tech ventures.
This investment was made off the back of Sprout’s 12-week accelerator designed to support startups who are solving some of the agricultural and food value chain's toughest problems. Registrations for the 2023 cohort are now open. Previous alumni include Cropsy; ProTag - a Fitbit for cows; Menuaid who are solving the 'What's for dinner?’ dilemma; and Nootropics company Arepa.
How it works
Jeremy Bryant, Founder and Chief Technical Officer for Aimer Development, spent over a decade developing a deep understanding of farm systems across New Zealand, including experience in dairy genetics and product development. He explains: “Today’s farmers face multiple decision points such as where to graze and how much; how much to supplement; and how to identify and address environmental risks. It’s overwhelming and obtaining the right insights and advice is often a costly exercise. Aimer is a digital assistant that actively collaborates with farmers to deliver forward looking insights and optimised solutions with limited data entry.”
To do this, Aimer’s software creates an underlying ‘digital twin’ of each user’s paddocks, farm and animals in order to enable them to understand what’s going on ‘under the hood’. This ‘current state’ is used to automatically test scenarios and devise optimised plans such as how many paddocks to conserve for supplements, what level of supplements to feed, and where to put cows when and for how long. Aimer also lets farmers know which cultivars and paddocks are performing the best on their farm, identifies paddocks to renovate, and learns from past performance to better forecast individual paddock covers.
“Aimer can currently text and email farmers and their teams, with chatbot and ‘conversational’ ability, value chain integration and environmental optimisation to follow,” says Jeremy.
Uptake and future potential
“Our initial beta users have complex legacy systems, providing us with invaluable learnings as we shape the product for even wider release. In parallel, we are also exploring the opportunity for Aimer to support US beef production,” says Jeremy.
“The support of Sprout and their network of mentors, partners and connections has been invaluable in helping us to shape our vision for the future of pastoral farming both locally and globally. It’s a niche crying out for forward-looking tech solutions that result in peak economic and environmental performance. We’re proud to be supporting one of the country’s biggest industries and to be taking kiwi innovation global,” concludes Jeremy.