Agricultural climatologist John Corbett is a co-founder and chief executive of aWhere Inc., a Broomfield-based company that collects weather data from around the globe and turns it into information that helps farmers increase crop yields. Jonathan Castner/For BizWest
BROOMFIELD — High-tech firm aWhere Inc. is helping low-tech farmers around the globe increase their crop yields in the face of erratic weather and climate change.
The Broomfield-based company’s software system collects weather information from satellites, drone operators and weather aggregators for specific locations as small as a few acres anywhere in the world. Information collected includes data on temperature, rainfall, humidity, solar radiation and wind – a billion data points across the planet each day – that can be used to make better decisions about what crops to plant, when to plant them and how to attend to them.
Using a set of algorithms created by aWhere, the company’s system analyzes and packages the data, makes recommendations, relays it to farm-management software companies who in turn can send it to client farmers in the field via mobile apps, text messages and even videos.
“The key is that this information makes farmers more profitable,” said agricultural climatologist John Corbett, the company’s chief executive and president. He said the information, which he calls agricultural intelligence, has allowed farmers to increase crop yields from 30 percent to 100 percent.
Corbett, who co-founded aWhere with Stewart Collis and Beau Bush in Texas in 1999, is based at company headquarters in Broomfield. Collis, chief technology officer, is in Durham, N.C., and Bush, vice president for information technology, is in Temple, Texas, where he runs the firm’s data center.
“We started as a consulting company, and were pretty good with software,” Corbett recalled. After moving to Colorado, aWhere hooked up with CTEK, an incubator in Boulder, which at the time was headed by Jim Pollock, who today is aWhere’s vice president for product strategy. Awhere moved its headquarters from Wheat Ridge to Broomfield in January.
About 80 percent of aWhere’s clients are in the United States, including ag giant Monsanto Co., farm-management companies, commercial growers and independent farmers, but it is growing its presence globally, recently opening offices in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Nairobi, Kenya. The company has 41 employees worldwide.
Recently, aWhere signed agreements with several companies to deliver data to farmers in the Caribbean, Indonesia, Asia and Africa.
Jamaica-based Revofarm will use aWhere’s technology to deliver daily information and alerts via mobile apps to farmers. Revofarm also will use aWhere’s Weather Support application to equip their call center representatives with information needed to make recommendations to local farmers.
“In the Caribbean, our agricultural production is heavily influenced by the weather and climatic events,” said Ricardo Gowdie, Revofarm’s CEO. “On a daily basis, our farmers are in need of a more accurate weather-prediction and analysis system so they can make more intelligent farming decisions.”
In Indonesia, Vasham, which offers financing for people operating small farms, became an aWhere client in May so it can send daily agronomic and weather reports to corn growers whose farming practices are at risk because climate change is altering traditional weather patterns.
Initially, Vasham will provide this data as text messages sent directly to corn growers at a subsidized cost, and eventually will move to other crops, such as rice and soybeans.
“Indonesia has a major productivity issue in its agriculture industry,” said Irvan Kolonas, president and founder of Vasham. “Most of our farmers lack the new technical methods and technologies of planting their crops. Most still use outdated methods. Our partnership with aWhere will have a positive impact for our farmers.”
Indiana-based Spensa Technologies is using aWhere’s technology to provide weather information to farmers who will use it to mitigate pests that cripple fruit tree and row crop harvests. Spensa has clients in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
“Weather gives us insight into the biological clock of pests, equipping our customers with the ability to act early and get ahead of problems before they start,” said Chad Aeschliman, director of engineering at Spensa Technologies. “This quality weather data from aWhere helps make our phenology models more reliable and consistent.” Phenology is a branch of science dealing with the relations between climate and natural events, such as bird migration or plant flowering.
As of September, aWhere had raised $11.6 million in venture funding, including backing from Palo Alto, Calif.-based Elixir Capital and Boulder-based Aravaipa Ventures led by Robert Fenwick-Smith. The company generates about $2.4 million annually in revenue, Corbett said.
Among other companies, aWhere competes with Climate Corp., acquired by Monsanto for about $930 million, and FarmLink, backed by OpenAir Equity Partners.
The company’s name, aWhere, pronounced “aware,” is a play on words. “It’s about being aware of where you are,” Corbett said.
Doug Storum can be reached at 303-630-1959, 970-416-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.