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The start-up using tractor-driven AI to enable the wine industry’s full potential

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12 April 2021

Cropsy Technologies are developing a combination of patent-pending hardware and AI to help growers make data-driven decisions. While their innovations have a number of applications, they are currently focused on viticulture, an industry that the team have identified as ripe for picking. 

New Zealand wine exports are valued at over $2 billion per year. It’s a valuable – and vulnerable – industry, facing increased competition and challenges posed by climate change. Cropsy estimates that the average winegrower currently monitors less than 1% of their vines, and they see the competitive advantage possible if horticultural problems are identified early. Co-founder Leila Deljkovic explains “We give grape growers the power to know every single plant so they can make the best decisions for their crop. We do this by attaching our proprietary vision system to tractors, which will scan the crop while the tractor operators are doing their daily jobs, and AI tells us if there’s something wrong.”

Leila says “We’re a big data and analytics company at our core. The amount and detail of information we’re uncovering on growers’ vineyards was just impossible to do until now, and it’s unlocking a whole world of opportunities to manage crops in a completely new way. It’s something which we’re confident could transform the entire industry.”

The idea for Cropsy Technologies was formed while its co-founders were completing their Engineering degrees at the University of Auckland. Co-founder Ali Alomari says “Leila and I had been working together on projects for a few years and we wanted to pursue something big. We both had an appreciation for horticulture and so we decided to start Cropsy in a pursuit to help fruit growers achieve a more sustainable and profitable product.”

Leila says “Ali had this vision of revolutionising the way the world grows its food, and somehow he convinced me that we could take on this challenge with our fresh engineering skills. Fundamentally, we’re nerds. The engineering problem was irresistible to us!”

They took Ali’s idea and developed it with the support of the University’s free Velocity entrepreneurship development programme, delivered by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Having gone through the business planning competition and receiving support to develop their concept, they pivoted away from their initial concept and technology and changed the company’s name. Leila says “Having a programme like Velocity made it so accessible to develop that idea and give it some substance – basically to see if it has any business legs. What Cropsy is today isn’t what we pitched at Velocity, but that just goes to show that the process of developing your idea into a business is more important than the idea itself, and that’s what we learned from Velocity. Highlights for me were the mentors we got from the programme, both of whom we stay in touch with regularly, and one of our mentors is now an advisor for Cropsy.”

Through their experience with Velocity, the core question of how to relieve pain points in the viticulture industry remained. From there they developed an answer. Leila says “It was clear that automation was the solution. We went through a number of iterations of our hardware. We built a basic disease detector, and realised we needed help to turn a prototype into an MVP, which is when we found Rory, who is our mechatronics master, and Winston, who is our machine learning wizard, to take Cropsy to the next level. So here we are now, after many hardware iterations, a lot of failures, and some critical successes.”

Cropsy are going through a phase of rapid growth, hiring full-stack developers and receiving accolades and industry support, most recently through Australasian accelerator programme Startmate, and New Zealand AgTech accelerator programme Sprout. Ali says “Startmate has opened Cropsy to A-class international mentorship, and access to international investors. Through the programme we have managed to have a focussed approach on formulating and achieving critical commercial goals, and the mentor network is invaluable. Sprout has put us in front of AgTech leaders and experts where we get to further refine Cropsy’s strategy and vision.”

Leila says “We’ve got a number of high-profile trial programmes set up. Beyond that, we’ve got our eyes on expanding to international vineyards and establishing Cropsy as a presence in viticulture circles. Trust is so important in this industry, which is why we’re committed to bringing our trial partners and customers solutions that actually work and are reliable. The big players in this industry are also innovators in their own right, so getting to work with them is a real privilege. AgTech is a new and growing field, with plenty of opportunity for pioneers like us to influence its direction for the future. That’s what’s most exciting about our work.”

Velocity Team 2020
Velocity Team 2020

social media

12 April 2021

Cropsy Technologies are developing a combination of patent-pending hardware and AI to help growers make data-driven decisions. While their innovations have a number of applications, they are currently focused on viticulture, an industry that the team have identified as ripe for picking. 

New Zealand wine exports are valued at over $2 billion per year. It’s a valuable – and vulnerable – industry, facing increased competition and challenges posed by climate change. Cropsy estimates that the average winegrower currently monitors less than 1% of their vines, and they see the competitive advantage possible if horticultural problems are identified early. Co-founder Leila Deljkovic explains “We give grape growers the power to know every single plant so they can make the best decisions for their crop. We do this by attaching our proprietary vision system to tractors, which will scan the crop while the tractor operators are doing their daily jobs, and AI tells us if there’s something wrong.”

Leila says “We’re a big data and analytics company at our core. The amount and detail of information we’re uncovering on growers’ vineyards was just impossible to do until now, and it’s unlocking a whole world of opportunities to manage crops in a completely new way. It’s something which we’re confident could transform the entire industry.”

The idea for Cropsy Technologies was formed while its co-founders were completing their Engineering degrees at the University of Auckland. Co-founder Ali Alomari says “Leila and I had been working together on projects for a few years and we wanted to pursue something big. We both had an appreciation for horticulture and so we decided to start Cropsy in a pursuit to help fruit growers achieve a more sustainable and profitable product.”

Leila says “Ali had this vision of revolutionising the way the world grows its food, and somehow he convinced me that we could take on this challenge with our fresh engineering skills. Fundamentally, we’re nerds. The engineering problem was irresistible to us!”

They took Ali’s idea and developed it with the support of the University’s free Velocity entrepreneurship development programme, delivered by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Having gone through the business planning competition and receiving support to develop their concept, they pivoted away from their initial concept and technology and changed the company’s name. Leila says “Having a programme like Velocity made it so accessible to develop that idea and give it some substance – basically to see if it has any business legs. What Cropsy is today isn’t what we pitched at Velocity, but that just goes to show that the process of developing your idea into a business is more important than the idea itself, and that’s what we learned from Velocity. Highlights for me were the mentors we got from the programme, both of whom we stay in touch with regularly, and one of our mentors is now an advisor for Cropsy.”

Through their experience with Velocity, the core question of how to relieve pain points in the viticulture industry remained. From there they developed an answer. Leila says “It was clear that automation was the solution. We went through a number of iterations of our hardware. We built a basic disease detector, and realised we needed help to turn a prototype into an MVP, which is when we found Rory, who is our mechatronics master, and Winston, who is our machine learning wizard, to take Cropsy to the next level. So here we are now, after many hardware iterations, a lot of failures, and some critical successes.”

Cropsy are going through a phase of rapid growth, hiring full-stack developers and receiving accolades and industry support, most recently through Australasian accelerator programme Startmate, and New Zealand AgTech accelerator programme Sprout. Ali says “Startmate has opened Cropsy to A-class international mentorship, and access to international investors. Through the programme we have managed to have a focussed approach on formulating and achieving critical commercial goals, and the mentor network is invaluable. Sprout has put us in front of AgTech leaders and experts where we get to further refine Cropsy’s strategy and vision.”

Leila says “We’ve got a number of high-profile trial programmes set up. Beyond that, we’ve got our eyes on expanding to international vineyards and establishing Cropsy as a presence in viticulture circles. Trust is so important in this industry, which is why we’re committed to bringing our trial partners and customers solutions that actually work and are reliable. The big players in this industry are also innovators in their own right, so getting to work with them is a real privilege. AgTech is a new and growing field, with plenty of opportunity for pioneers like us to influence its direction for the future. That’s what’s most exciting about our work.”


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