#23 - Product strategy: How to use AI to exponentially grow crop yields and farmer efficiency

An interview about with Tim Willis, CFO and Head of Growth at Aerobotics

Product strategyThe focus of this podcast is on product strategy and my guest is Tim Willis, CFO and Head of Growth at Aerobotics, an AI startup from South Africa. He’s charged with growing Aerobotics in non-core markets, as well as its global expansion efforts. He’s built his financial management expertise at both Deloitte and Uber, where he led its Analytics & Strategy Central Operations Team for Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA).

During this podcast interview, we explore how technology can add significant value by augmenting farmers across the world to increase their yields while becoming more efficient at the same time.

We’ll also look into the wider value implications this can have across the supply chain, and how other, non-farming related industries, can be served uniquely as a by-product of the intelligence gained.

The thing that triggered me most from my interview with Tim?

“Our aim in the future is to actually be able to predict what your yield will be based off our images. If we can do that, then we have a lot of forward looking information which is extremely useful, not only to farmers, but also to people down the value chain.”

Why did this trigger me? What’s the bigger value I see?

The value is in thinking in outcomes, not in outputs. Aerobotics started around the idea that “it was cool to fly a drone over a farm”, but realized quickly that “without the software to actually use, it was going to be difficult to commercialize.”

In other words – they started with the ‘What’ (a more efficient way to spot yield issues i.e. a photo), and realized it was answering the ‘Why’ that would lead them to create remarkable value (i.e. predict yield and help increase yield quality). This takes Aerobotics value towards farmers from 10% impact to potentially 10x impact – and more importantly, it created a by-product with which they (in the near future) can drive value to other markets as well: Providing qualitative insights to retail to help them anticipate issues in their supply chain planning weeks, if not months in advance, or providing key data to Insurance companies to help them create new disruptive business models to insure farmers based on adjusted risk-profiles, etc…

By listening to this podcast you will learn three things:

  1. Why focusing on outcomes, not outputs is the secret to creating a sustainable business
  2. How focusing on just a thin slice of the market is key to dominate it profitably
  3. That less is always more – in other words, you’ll always have 100 to 200 things you’d like or think you have to do with your software, but identifying the 10 that will truly move the needle is the most critical thing.


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