Startup Stories: Agtech Champion PEAT Tackles Global Food Security
How can we cope? We are looking at world population of 9.6 billion people in 2050 that will need access to a nutritious and healthy food supply. Still, for many agtech startups, fighting for global food security is not only about producing more food. It also means protecting food sources from diseases that would reduce the production and quality of grains, fibre and biofuel crops, as well as reducing the fertilizer-induced carbon footprint wherever possible.
Farmers all over the world have to spend billions of dollars on disease management, while in many places technical infrastructure, disease control practices and know how remain poor. A new generation of entrepreneurs have now started to introduce the latest innovative technology into the fight for global food security and against devastating crop losses.
Germany-based agtech startup PEAT consists of a team of plant pathologists and engineers, and they have been taking the roster of business plan competitions by storm, winning the “Going Global” accolades at the Hannover Startup Impuls competition, as well as the Generation-D environment category and being called “one of the best startups in Germany” by business magazine BILANZ on top. We had the pleasure to talk to Pierre Munzel, who is Head of PR’n’Accounting at PEAT, who are located in Hannover and Berlin.
Q: What is the idea behind your agtech startup?
PEAT combines agricultural ecology, geodata and digital solutions. We use modern image recognition and self-learning algorithms to support farmers with customized information on smart disease management. We want to reduce the use of pesticides and by multiplying knowledge digitally.
PEAT developed a software for the automated detection of plant damages (including diseases, pests and nutrient deficiencies), only by taking a photo. We offer this software in the form of a smartphone App and an software interface (API) to be integrated in other mobile solutions.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your business?
We have worked intensively with small farmers and farmers in the Gambia, Mali and Brazil over the last few years and have realized that the control of plant diseases is one of the biggest problems for farmers. Even today, diseases, weeds and pests destroy up to 30% of the absolute harvest worldwide.
We are convinced that the smart control of plant damages and the increase of yields is one of the most powerful set-screws for a sustainable 21st century.
Q: What is your business model, i.e. how do you plan to monetize your ideas?
Our API is designed for apps, greenhouse cameras, drones and agricultural robots. We offer software- and agricultural companies to integrate them into their solutions.
PEAT is the bet on a future in which artificial intelligence helps us to manage our resources in a smart and sustainable way. Damages can be recognized early on and treated only locally. Through permanent, real time monitoring of the fields, it is possible that the preventive use of plant protection products can be significantly reduced, which saves money and preserves our environment.
Q: Who is part of your team, and how did you get to connect?
Our team is made up of natural- and social scientists, developers and app programmers.
We are a total of seven founders: Simone, Rob, Pierre, Charlotte, Alex, Bianca and Korbi are building the Team PEAT. Some have known each other since school days, while others have been added during the study period. All PEAT founders are united by their aim to build a sustainable future by focusing on smart food production and agriculture.
Q: What is your status quo in terms of investment? Are you looking for funding or investors?
Last year, we received the “EXIST Founder Grant” from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy. This allowed us to develop our idea. Currently we are in contact with potential partners and investors.
Q: How do you want to break big into the world, what is your marketing strategy?
We believe that the issue of food security is relevant to all people. That is why we want to help people worldwide to secure their crops. We want to build a global platform on which people can be informed and exchange information.
Especially the digitalization and the spread of mobile Internet offer here previously unimagined possibilities. Of course the social media will play a decisive role in building up the PEAT movement.
Q: What do you perceive as the greatest challenges for your startup and how do you cope?
As for many startups that come with a new disruptive idea, speed is the biggest challenge to master. We are therefore striving to build up extensive cooperation networks. We want to make sure that we get our lead so far set a new standard for image recognition in agriculture.
By building up the largest database on plant damages worldwide, PEAT will stay at the cutting edge of this exciting new field.
Q: What is your status quo overall, and what do you see as milestones to reach next?
Currently, we are already able to recognize more than 50 plant damages automatically. We want to expand this.
We have now also published Plantix in Brazil and India, and other countries will follow soon.
Q: What seems to be the most important startup experience / lesson learned during the startup process so far?
With a team that understands and works well together, you can achieve great things.
Another important learning was that the bureaucracy that prevails here in Germany keeps you sometimes away from working for too long.
Q: How can people reach out to you?
It is best to write an email to [email protected]
With a diverse, motivated team and proven capabilities to deliver, German agtech startup PEAT appears well positioned to take on future relevant topics like global food security and sustainable agriculture for a planet with an estimated 9 billion people by 2050.
In fact, as a startup, PEAT are swiftly expanding their team size, themselves. If you are looking for new challenges in the areas of frontend or backend developing, machine learning or phytopathology, you can find all of PEAT’s current job openings on our agtech recruiting platform.
Name of the agtech startup: PEAT GmbH
Current team size: 7
Year of founding: 2015
Industry: AgTech, AI, Machine Learning
Locations: Hannover and Berlin, Germany
Plantix und PEAT on Facebook
Image and logo credits: PEAT GmbH