Before Outfield began, the founders Oli and Jim both had growing concerns about the impact of human life on this planet, and the future of the species. Following a storied career working as a risk consultant in international Oil and Gas, Jim had moved to the private equity sector, assessing environmental, humanitarian and major incident risks related to large mergers and acquisitions.
This exposure to macro industry trends really highlighted the urgent limit on resources available for humanity, and the inefficiency with which they were being deployed. No where was this more true than in the agricultural sector, where it was common for individual farmers to be responsible for gathering and analysing data. This data was often recorded on paper and not subject to any assessment of efficiency on farm, productivity of decisions, or trends related to climate or sustainability.
At the same time, Oli was working as an aeronautical engineer, and developing a deep understanding of drone technology, machine learning capabilities and the emergence of big data. Oli had the vision to see the potential for these technologies, still in their infancy, to deliver the future of international farming. Data could provide growers with much deeper insights, causing a revolution in farm precision and enabling more food production using less resources. Even more than this, the convergence of increasing global internet access, cloud computing, emerging machine learning techniques and the ease of access of drone platforms meant that this revolution could be realised by all growers, not just in the 1st first world.
In 2016, Oli and Jim formally founded Outfield and worked for the first 2 years as consultants in the Agricultural sector, developing aerial imagery and analysis solutions for growers and plant science research groups in the UK. This allowed them to assess the market and technologies, running projects in assessing broad acre crops, supporting large vegetable and salad growers, analysing agri-chemical trials, assessing land use for environmental schemes and more. Over these two years they consistently found that the horticultural, specifically orchard and vine crops, were most in need of and receptive to the products they were developing.
By January 2019, Outfield was 100% focussed on fruit crops. This is when the Precision Orchard Dosing System (PODS) project began, a three year grant funded project with a large consortium of partners to use Outfield’s aerial imagery techniques for precision spraying of blossom thinning agents in Orchard. This was a real boost to Outfield, allowing for more staff and more focus on core technologies. Outfield began delivering projects to their earliest Orchard clients during the 2019 season, who are still working with us today.
Over the next 2 years Outfield continued to grow – adding key hires to the team, expanding the network of growers and partners across 5 continents, and developing groundbreaking technologies in close collaboration with growers, researchers and the industry. This culminated in August 2021 with a seed funding round, bringing on board a fantastic set of investors and fueling the next phase of the business.