We talked to Dr. Nessi Benishti on how Agrio helps protect crops, and this is what he had to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dr. Nessi Benishti: We are doing OK, thank you for asking. We are practicing social distancing and staying safe. I hope that soon it will be over so we can go back to a more normal way of life.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Agrio?
Dr. Nessi Benishti: I am science and technology enthusiastic in focusing on artificial intelligence and its applications in recent years. Before founding Agrio, I studied for an M.sc and Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics, concentrating on String Theory. After finishing my academic degrees, I decided to devote my time to developing technology that positively affects human lives. I became interested in computer vision and medical devices. I cofounded Augmedics and served as the CTO. Also, I was the core technology inventor at another medical device startup, called Cathworks. I became interested in agriculture three years ago when I realized the size of the open problems and the impact their solutions could have.
How does Agrio innovate?
Dr. Nessi Benishti: We experiment a lot and measure success. Once we have a hypothesis, we talk with our customers to see their reactions. We then come up with possible solutions that are based on a set of assumptions that fill the gaps. We test our hypotheses and iterate to improve. We believe in quick cycles. We aim to develop technology that provides farmers the best tools to solve problems related to plant health. With artificial intelligence aid, we can create an easily scalable solution and, therefore, affordable and practical.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Dr. Nessi Benishti: Digitization was boosted since farmers’ interaction with agronomists, and field inspectors became even more limited and challenging. We see a substantial acceleration in growth and interest. More broadly, the awareness of the importance of disease and pest spread monitoring raised and made our selling pitch shorter.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Dr. Nessi Benishti: Our solution is based on the idea that plant protection can be done remotely. Social distancing is built-in, so we didn’t experience any profound changes in the way we operate.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Agrio in the future?
Dr. Nessi Benishti: We keep positively stressing ourselves as we keep aiming higher as we move forward. But negative stress is unavoidable, and it is part of this process. Exercising, spending time with family and friends, and keeping a good life perspective helps me stay calm and productive. Our goal is to keep growing our user base and strengthening our offering to small to medium holder farmers and organizations. We aim to make valuable technology accessible to underserved communities.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Dr. Nessi Benishti: There are several startups and big companies that are creating their solutions. We innovate and make sure that we stay true to our vision; this also keeps us apart. As long as we maintain a high level of innovation and create solutions that answer real growers’ needs, we are confident that we will stay relevant.