Well it’s nearly the end of 2022, and I want to take this opportunity to reflect on everything that we’ve been up to at Outfield over the course of a very busy year.
From new features to new geographies, from new team members to new fruit types, it’s been a packed 2022! Over the last 12 months Outfield has gone from strength to strength, and so we thought it would be nice to share with you some of the cool things we’ve been working on and how they’ve turned out!
Sales & Marketing
Sales and marketing has been a real highlight of the year, and we have smashed almost all the goals we set ourselves here. Some highlights:
- We signed up our first users of the Outfield platform in the USA, in New York and Michigan. The yield prediction results from those users look really promising, and of course we are planning to do a lot more in the US in 2023.
- We welcomed Chloe, our new Marketing Executive, and Andrew, our new Customer Success Manager to the team.
- We received a great response from our Cluver Farm case study which you can read all about it on our website. Cluver Farms saved 52% on fuel costs, 51% on labour costs, and 53% on agrichemical costs by using maps from Outfield, chemical recommendations from Agrimotion, and precision applications by Red Ant.
- The number of followers on our social media accounts has increased and we’ve loved sharing what we’ve been getting up to, from our U.S trip to our all team meet ups. So hello to you if you found this post through a social media post!
Outfield Web App
Our software engineering team has kept up a steady stream of new features being pushed to the Outfield web app, which has kept them very busy. Here’s the breakdown of what they got up to:
- In July we added support for US customary units to the web app, allowing users to define their orchards in feet instead of just metres. And for next season, yield estimates will be available in tonnes, lbs and also US bushels!
- We have added a whole bushel of new features to the web app, including the ability to retire old orchards, and a button that opens the orchard’s location in Google Maps, making it easier to share its location with others.
- In September we pushed a major upgrade to how the Outfield platform generates your flight plans. Automated flight paths are now faster and much better at following the slope of the orchard. Plus you now have the option to select which side of the trees you survey, to best match the lighting conditions. All of this makes flying the drone faster and easier, and improves the accuracy of the fruit counts.
Machine Learning Systems
Machine learning is the heart of Outfield, and we are always pushing the limits of what we can do using the latest technology. This year was no exception! Here’s a summary of what the ML team has been up to:
- We’ve seen a massive increase in the use of the Outfield system this year – the number of hectares surveyed rose 600% from September 2021 to September 2022! The ML team has been particularly busy monitoring and assessing the performance of our models on all of this new data.
- We’ve made some big improvements to our ML infrastructure. While none of this is seen by the users, it’s hugely exciting for the ML team and is a massive opportunity to improve our computer vision models. With these new systems we can build our models better, faster, more confidently.
- In collaboration with Yagro and a handful of UK farms, we have been carrying out a very exciting research project to measure the size of apples. Our prototype system will determine fruit sizes while the apples are on the tree, from a single Outfield drone survey. The fruit size and count data can then be used to give growers much better harvest forecasts. This is not an easy thing to do with off-the-shelf consumer drones, but the initial feasibility study is proving very successful! Watch out for more on this next year.
Through rain and shine, wind and snow (well maybe not snow) the Outfield Operations Team has been hard at work this year putting the system through its paces. Here’s just a snapshot of what they’ve been up to:
- In 2022, we ran very successful trials of the Outfield system in the UK, USA, South Africa, and Italy – with all the logistical problems that come with flying drones all over the world!
- The team has been busy testing new drone types (including drones equipped with RTK GPS), new flight paths, and new ways of gathering data in the field. Whenever we make a change to the Outfield system, the Operations Team first needs to test it thoroughly in the field, and there has been plenty to test this year!
- In between customer trials and testing new features, we have also been generating training data that the ML team uses to develop their models and systems. This year the variety of datasets required has ranged from fruit sizing to our first vineyard surveys.
Outfield Technologies Ltd
It’s been a big year for the company as a whole, one in which we have hit several exciting milestones. Here is just a few of them:
- Early in the year we closed our first funding round, led by the Low Carbon Innovation Fund. This investment allowed us to expand the team and has been so important in driving the fantastic growth we’ve seen this year.
- Speaking of growing the team, we have gone from 9 at the start of the year up to 12 now, bringing onboard dedicated team members in marketing, software engineering and account management.
- We’ve carried out two different grant funded projects funded by Innovate UK during the year, and we’ve applied (but been unsuccessful) for several others. Grant funding is so important to development in agri-tech, and it allows us to pursue some really high-risk / high-reward ideas.
- We were delighted to win the FPC Fresh Awards for Agritech Excellence in September.
- In both May and November we held an all-team meet up in Cambridge. If you want to know more about those, check out our other blog posts!
I’ve only scratched the surface here, but it has certainly been a busy year! We’ve had such a great time seeing Outfield grow and hearing the feedback from users. We really believe in what we do and hopefully it shows in how much we’ve accomplished so far.
There are a lot of exciting things coming next year and we’ll share it with you here first. Look out for more platform upgrades, faster processing times, new fruit types (peaches and grapes anyone?), more testing of fruit size measurements, and more insights for you and your farm.
Jim and I would like to say a huge thank you to all our platform users, advisors, investors, grant partners, friends and families for the support you’ve given us this year. We really couldn’t do it without you!
Wishing you a very happy holiday, we will see you in 2023!
From Oli, Jim, and the whole Outfield team