In the fast-paced world of technology and agriculture, remarkable stories often begin with a casual chat between two determined individuals.
Meet Jim and Oli, the founders of a groundbreaking venture that employs drones and machine learning to provide apple growers with insightful orchard maps, aiding in informed decision-making.
Join us for an inside look at Outfield’s beginnings, as we chat with Co-founder Jim about how it all started.
Planting the Seed: Identifying Agricultural Challenges
Back in 2015 and 2016, Oli and Jim joined forces to address the critical challenges they saw unfolding on a global scale. At the heart of their concerns was the ever-increasing world population and the surging demand for high-quality food, all transpiring against the backdrop of dwindling resources.
The challenges were multifaceted, spanning a spectrum of agricultural complexities.
Labour shortages, the troubling issue of food waste, and the concerning decline in the nutritional value of crops compounded the industry’s dilemmas. To make matters even more pressing, agriculture’s significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and CO2 output loomed large. The complex network of global supply chains also encountered an ongoing risk of disruption.
The Birth of a Vision: Remote Sensing and Orchard Management
Now, let’s delve into Oli’s vision from the very start. As Jim recounts, Oli was well-versed in what remote sensing systems were capable of, and he wanted to use existing technologies that were becoming progressively more mature when they first started looking at this. The vision was to deliver a solution for growers which would allow them to measure what was happening in their field and therefore manage it. The idea that ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’ became their guiding principle as they ventured into digitization and data-driven insights.
From Concept to Reality: Orchestrating Technological Harmony
The journey from vision to reality was not a straight path but rather a series of trials, errors, and strategic choices. The duo embarked on an exploration of various remote sensing systems – satellites, aircraft, drones, and more – across diverse crops. While different crops and surveying methods were evaluated, the siren call of fruit crops, with their unique challenges and high value, proved hard to ignore. This magnetic pull towards fruit crops laid the foundation for what would eventually become their groundbreaking endeavour – Outfield.
The Uphill Climb: Navigating Challenges and Pivots
Success rarely follows a linear trajectory, and Jim and Oli’s journey was no exception. The initial support for their impactful idea was heartening, driven by the recognition that aligning growers’ profits with sustainability goals was crucial. However, the path ahead was marked by hurdles, one of which was the early-stage drone technology that led to an unfortunate mishap – a drone in a ditch. Yet, challenges only fueled their determination. They fine-tuned the technology, forged partnerships, and listened intently to the needs of growers.
Seeds of Transformation: Cultivating Precision and Innovation
Determination and resilience were constants in their journey, resulting in a series of strategic pivots. Early attempts at crop trials and rudimentary machine learning models laid the groundwork for deeper exploration. A significant turning point arrived in 2021 with a successful funding round. This marked a pivotal juncture where the Pods project and precision spraying gained momentum, steering them toward a clear focus on digital transformation and cutting-edge AI applications.
Conclusion: Nurturing Innovation in Orchards and Beyond
In the dynamic world of technology and agriculture, Jim and Oli’s journey is a testament to the power of vision and perseverance. They began in a time when our planet faced mounting challenges in food production, and their shared passion led them to create a pioneering venture.
Outfield, with its drone and machine learning technology, empowers apple growers with vital orchard maps for informed decision-making. As Jim reflects, “Oli and I have known each other since university. He had a key to my house before we started the business. We’ve trusted each other for a long time, and that’s where that symbiosis came from.”
As Outfield continues to grow and evolve, Jim and Oli’s story inspires us to embrace the challenges of today, knowing that innovation can shape a brighter future for agriculture.