Agtech startup Regrow founder and aeronautical engineer Anastasia Volkova is pioneering agricultural food production processes to help improve our soil, and battle climate change.
The global agtech market is projected to reach some $32 billion by 2025 — and Ukrainian-born Australian entrepreneur Volkova believes that to address the challenges of food security and climate change, we need to invest in one of the world’s oldest carbon banks: our soil.
Regrow’s mission may sound simple, but it employs state-of-the-art technology to help multinationals set and deliver ambitious carbon offset targets.
The firm’s data-driven crop management tool, which originally used hyperspectral cameras attached to drones, has now refocused on satellite platforms to assess the health and potential of crops.
This helps farmers to save on fertiliser, increase their yields and reduce the amount of nitrogen that flows from their land into surrounding waterways.
Create first met Volkova in 2018, when her startup was known as FluroStat and had 12 commercial clients. Today, the firm has rebranded to Regrow, boasts clients including Kellogg’s, Cargill and General Mills, and recently received a $38 million round of Series B capital raising.
“Since we last spoke, the business has expanded the use of our decision support tools to focus more on sustainable environmental outcomes for farming,” she said.
“Over the last few years, sustainability has come to the forefront of everyone’s minds due to COVID. We’ve seen supply chain disruptions, and heightened interest in the improvement of and investment in the resiliency of those supply chains.”
With ESG (environmental, social, and governance) commitments now front and centre for corporates, Volkova said that they need the tools to underpin measurement of sustainability goals.
“Our business has evolved quite significantly to use the same tools with the same premises and modelling frameworks, but to underpin decisions with a different level of credibility and scale,” she said.
Around one fifth of global carbon output comes from agriculture, so decarbonising the sector could play a critical role in meeting emissions targets. Volkova herself has moved to Los Angeles as Regrow has expanded significantly in the United States.
“We monitor nearly the entire US production system for adoption of regenerative practices and associated ecosystem outcomes — that’s over 300 million acres,” she said.
“The way we have scaled over the last four years, and the impact that it is starting to create is something that gives me a lot of satisfaction.”
Indeed, the firm is managing over 25 major projects across a variety of regions, as well as different crops and different production systems.
One such project is working with food giant Kellogg’s on the decarbonisation of its rice supply chain for foods such as Kellogg’s Special K.
“We work with farmers on making changes to their irrigation systems on rice farms to mitigate their methane emissions,” she said.
“We’re working to impact a physical system. It’s a complex decision — the farmers need to regulate and monitor and manage irrigation on a timely basis, and depending on the needs of the crop in growth stages, as well as factoring in other nuances like evapotranspiration.”
Volkova explained that Regrow doesn’t install the engineering infrastructure, but it works on boosting their connectivity and decision making.
“More and better monitoring for the farmers in terms of water use and timings, the more precise we can be in our estimates of the greenhouse gas emissions, and the more precise the farmers can be at managing those,” she said.
“From an engineering perspective, we look after the digital integrations with those systems that capture the data on the farm, and demonstrate that we’re tracking whether they are actually executing the changes that they need to implement.”
“It’s been super exciting, because Bloomberg is pioneering corporate guidance on climate disclosures,” she said.
Regrow now has team members in the US, Australia, Europe, Latin America and South Africa. As for Volkova herself, she’s less focused on the engineering side of the business these days as she works on continuing the firm’s impressive growth.
“We have some very exciting projects on the cards for the agrifood industry in Australia that will launch next year,” she said.
“It is very exciting because we’re finally connecting these markets with global sustainability pledges, and it really feels as though Australia is moving towards transparent climate action and sustainability.”
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