The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and AgLaunch are collaborating to host East Tennessee’s first ever accelerator solely focused on agricultural start-ups. The program, named AgWorks, was described in this recent teknovation.biz article. It features five companies that are accelerating their ideas at Sizzle TechStart.
Between now and the upcoming “AgWorks Demo Day” later in August, we will be spotlighting each of the teams. Today’s focus is on GeoAir, a company founded by Alex Adams, an entrepreneur we first met as a student at the University of Tennessee,
Tell us about yourself and, if applicable, your other team members . . . names(s), background(s), experience, etc. Alex Adams, Chief Executive Officer of GeoAir, says his passion for entrepreneurship was sparked while obtaining his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, when he started a company that sold parachute hammocks targeted towards college students (see teknovation.biz article here). The entrepreneurial spark influenced him to receive his MBA with concentrations in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Marketing while being granted an MBA Entrepreneur Fellowship. He has years of experience in flying and building large scale autonomous systems. He has progressed his passion for aviation by receiving his Private and Remote Pilot License from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Describe the focus of your start-up and the problem you are trying to address. Mold is responsible for destroying one-third of arable crops. Current options to manage mold include a costly preventive fungicide on the entire field or a treatment that is too late to save the damaged crops. GeoAir pinpoints mold in fields, allowing farmers to produce more by spot eliminating the mold before it damages the crops. This also increases the farmer’s income. Our mold location service allows farmers to reduce the risk associated with mold destroying crops by implementing proactive risk management. Over $11 billion or $260 per acre of corn is lost each year in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Illinois to mold, GeoAir is focusing on Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Illinois since they are the four largest corn producing states with 43.2 million acres of corn combined. Each acre of corn is valued at an average of $910. On average, 30 percent of this corn is ruined due to mold, erasing $210 in value and costing $50 per acre for fungicides and leaving the farmer a potential revenue of $650.
How did the idea to start the company originate? What was the catalyst? I was working on a few different business concepts centered around drones while being an Entrepreneur Fellow in UT’s MBA program. While going through the program and entering in the pitch competitions (“Vol Court” and “Boyd Venture Challenge”), I received valuable feedback that made me pivot the overall business concept. The current idea originated while being in an interview for an MBA Internship. The spark occurred while discussing my pivots during the pitch competitions. By the end of the interview, I decided that I was no longer interested in the internship and wanted to start working on GeoAir full-time.
What was the impetus for applying to participate in AgWorks? I did not have an agricultural background and wanted to learn the ecosystem. A large portion on learning the ecosystem is building your network of the key players in the space. AgWorks was able to provide this network through their connections with KEC and AgLaunch. These connections will be able to help be build my distribution channels so that GeoAir can reach its target market effectively.
What do you expect to accomplish before the August “Demo Day”? I would like to have our field trials finished so that we can begin to talk to potential customers with our data that we collected. AgWorks has taught me that potential customers and investors in agriculture are more concerned with the data than other industries due to the many different environmental and geographical locations in which the service could be performed. We are also working on further building our connections with our potential distribution channels.