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MANAGING CROPS: One ag startup is helping farmers do a better job of managing postharvest information. While controlled-environment farming is where it's starting, one company founder says the platform can work in any ag situation.

Tech tool focused on postharvest management

Ag startup Native, while opening in a specialty market, is crop-agnostic, and it offers the potential for postharvest management of any crop.

Modern agriculture is seeing a lot more attention from ag tech investments, with many innovators taking a unique look at how work gets done on the farm. One company has turned its attention to an area many farmers may not consider — postharvest management.

“We’ve built a solution that is agnostic to what type of farming you’re working with,” says Sarah Sanders, co-founder and CEO of Native. “This is postharvest software, with inventory management and a customer relationship management tool.”

Native, which is carving a niche in the specialty market linking producers with end users, could be put to work in a number of crops, Sanders says. The starting point now for the New York-based company is specialty producers selling into specific markets like restaurants, but she sees value in this software deployed in most any crop.

Using the software-as-a-service model, Native can collect information to help manage inventory, link to buyers and improve margins. For a farmer who has diversified into crops that he or she sells to restaurants, this kind of tool can help you know what’s on hand and help reduce food waste.

One area where Native is getting attention is in controlled-environment agriculture. Farmers with greenhouses have to manage inventory in new ways, and this tool can help. “If an operation has multiple locations, they can see what’s happening at each location,” Sanders explains.

Sanders notes that the company is already working with numerous controlled-environment companies, with many between New York City and the Midwest. Native is primarily an inventory management tool, and for now isn’t being deployed in the row-crop market, she says. She adds that the product is crop-agnostic; and that for farmers with multiple farm locations trying to track what’s on hand to sell, there may be potential.

Expanding West

While much of the business for Native is between St. Louis and New York, the company is looking West to California, where specialty crops and inventory management would offer a big opportunity. “We’re a fairly small company, and we have to focus — it’s a matter of size for us,” she says.

Recently, the company entered a deal with Autogrow, a company that is working to automate greenhouse operations. Autogrow created FarmRoad, which is a platform for autonomous farming (mainly indoor farming) and management. Native is part of that FarmRoad platform, providing the backbone for real-time linkage between grower and buyer. Native integrates real-time technology through the ag supply chain to accelerate traceability, waste mitigation and improve return on investment.

Tech startups are providing agriculture with a range of new solutions. Often the low-hanging fruit of opportunity is the specialty crop market, where more management of the crop offers faster returns.

Sanders emphasizes that Native is agnostic, and that there may be opportunity across a wide range of crops. For now, controlled-environment agriculture is a hot spot; but as traceability demands rise, inventory and customer-connecting tools may become more important across a wider range of the market.

“We’re the only true postharvest, inventory and [customer relationship management] software for agriculture,” she adds.

Farmers diversifying into new crops and businesses with a more direct-sales component may see value in services like Native. For more information, visit nativeag.io.

TAGS: Technology
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