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Plug and Play: FastFarm

FastFarm’s Elevator Pitch:

Lending in agriculture is expensive and risky because it’s hard to know if the value of the crop will cover the loan repayment. FastFarm solves this problem by turning daily satellite imagery into a prediction of how much a field will produce. This way, lenders and farmers can make safer decisions because they know what’s happening on the farm in real time.

We charge a fee per acre for this service. Banks, co-ops, and retailers in Mexico are already using our system to make loans, and farmers are seeing the benefits. We’re constantly adding new tools to our system that help manage risks like price changes and sustainability issues. Ultimately, we aim to make agricultural loans safer, easier, and more sustainable across the globe.

How did you get the idea to start your company?

I [Founder and CEO Luis Lascurain] have always been close to farming because of our family ranch, and I studied chemical engineering to get involved, but my career initially took me into finance. It was when I came to the US for my MBA and MS at Stanford that I started working in agricultural technology. I soon realized that the main obstacle to adopting new technologies in farming was a lack of investment. This lack of investment often stemmed from the high risks associated with farming—risks that were hard to predict or manage

I started brainstorming ways to reduce this risk and realized that data was the key. If we could get accurate, real-time data from farms, we could understand the risks better and make safer investments. But traditional ways of gathering this data were costly and disruptive.

That’s when I thought of using satellite images. Growing crops is essentially a biochemical reaction, and these images can tell us how well that reaction is going. With this information, we can estimate the costs and risks of a farming operation without ever setting foot on the field. That’s how FastFarm was born. We use satellite imagery to make farm loans safer and more accessible, ultimately helping farmers adopt the technology they need to thrive. 

What does it mean to be a part of Plug and Play’s North Dakota Agtech Program?

Being a part of Plug and Play’s North Dakota Agtech Program has been incredibly beneficial for FastFarm. It has opened doors to networking with large companies and provided us with key resources and mentorship that have shaped our business strategy. One of the most valuable insights has been understanding the unique lending needs in the US agricultural sector, which differ from those in Mexico, where we currently operate. This experience has not only broadened our market understanding but has also equipped us with the knowledge to tailor our solution to different markets. Overall, it’s an opportunity that has accelerated our growth and potential for expansion.

If your product/service was already being used by everyone globally, what impact would that have? 

If FastFarm were used globally, it could significantly increase investment in agriculture, leading to improved crop yields. We believe that many farmers aren’t investing as much as they could in their fields due to financial constraints, which results in lower yields

By reducing the risk and cost of lending, our service would make it easier for farmers to access funds for investment. This wouldn’t just be for new, untested technology but for proven, existing methods that farmers may have been unable to afford before.

The widespread adoption of FastFarm could therefore play a pivotal role in increasing agricultural productivity worldwide. This could lead to increased food security, greater economic prosperity for farmers, and a more sustainable future for our global food system.

How are you incorporating growers into your business plan?

Growers are indeed at the heart of our business plan. This season, we are collaborating with our lender customers to introduce our product to their growers. The reason is simple: growers are the primary investors in crops and stand to gain directly from our service.

We are designing our product to offer meaningful insights to growers that can help them make smarter investment decisions. After all, when a grower makes good use of a loan, repayment is more likely

Furthermore, we are actively seeking and valuing feedback from growers. This feedback not only ensures our product aligns with their needs but also guides the development of new features and enhancements. In this way, we ensure growers are not just beneficiaries of our service but are also active contributors to its ongoing development and success.

Where do you see your company in 10 years?

In 10 years, we aim to become the preferred platform for lenders and growers across the globe, offering indispensable tools to manage their investment and production risks efficiently

We envision our product offerings to evolve significantly. Our plan includes the incorporation of advanced risk management tools, which will do more than just monitor crop health. We aim to tackle market uncertainties by helping our users leverage our harvest volume predictions to actively hedge against volatile crop prices, offering them greater stability and predictability in their operations. Sustainability is another cornerstone of our future vision. We’re developing mechanisms to monitor carbon credits and use them as collateral, promoting financial incentives for sustainable farming practices.

Ultimately, FastFarm is about more than building a successful business. We’re creating a platform that ushers in enduring, positive change in the agricultural sector worldwide.

By participating in Plug and Play’s North Dakota Agtech Program, what do you hope to accomplish? Have you considered expanding your operations to the Upper Midwest?

Indeed, we are considering expanding our operations to the Upper Midwest. However, before we do, it’s essential that we tailor and refine our product to effectively address the unique challenges specific to that region. 

Through our participation in Plug and Play’s North Dakota Agtech Program, we aim to gain a deep understanding of the contrasts between agricultural lending in Mexico and the US. The presence of robust crop insurance in the US, for example, significantly alters the lending dynamics. Our goal is to leverage the insights and network provided by the program to learn how best to navigate these differences.

In essence, we view our involvement in the program as a key step in our learning journey, helping us prepare for potential expansion and ensuring we can provide the most effective solutions for each unique agricultural context we encounter

This magazine reaches 16,000+ farmers. In one sentence, what would you like to tell them?

At FastFarm we believe investment is the best fertilizer. We’re dedicated to becoming your trusted partner in increasing your farm’s financial stability and productivity by providing innovative, datadriven solutions that help you manage risk, access loans more easily, and invest sustainably in your fields.

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