Better, faster and stronger. Testing new technology and innovation on farms, rather than in labs or controlled trials, serves as the ultimate measuring tape.
When Tennessee producer Grant Norwood partnered with GroGuru, a startup with unique irrigation management technology enabling permanent soil sensor installation below till depth, the result was a big win for both farmer and company. Steered by AgLaunch, an ag tech-focused business acceleration program that connects growers and entrepreneurs, the Norwood-GroGuru collaboration serves as a blueprint for farmer-startup efforts.
Across 3,000 no-till acres in northeast Tennessee’s Henry County, Norwood grows corn, soybeans and winter wheat, with roughly one-third of his acreage watered by pivots and under the eye of GroGuru’s strategic irrigation management technology. In 2018 and 2019, as the company’s first row-crop farmer-partner, Norwood tested GroGuru innovation.
“By starting early, I got to be a big voice and help shape the technology to get the best product,” he says. “GroGuru delivers useful information about what is around the root zone — a complete look at what’s underground, and I can plant over the permanent ground sensors.”
Patrick Henry, CEO of GroGuru, says farmer-partners are invaluable. “We got candid feedback from Grant that allowed us to improve. There is no substitute for being in the field and working while farmers deal with day-to-day problems. You can’t find that dynamic in a lab or in field trials that don’t directly involve our end-customer — the farmer.”
Norwood emphasizes the benefits for all growers: “The information I provided helped GroGuru with a better product and faster pace. Ultimately, this helps farmers access useful technology at the beginning of a startup. The experience produced a great working relationship, and I’m now involved in other AgLaunch projects.”