Episode 14
Polybee is building microdrones that pollinate plants and take measurements in an effort to increase plant yield
In this episode, I interview Siddharth Jadhav, founder and CEO of Polybee--an autonomous microdrone company out of Singapore that is mimicking the work of bees and also taking very precise plant measurements in an effort to help farmers increase their yields. We talk about the critical role of pollination in food security and why Polybee is much more than a pollination as a service company. They are the first scalable drone solution targeting producers in controlled environment agriculture and partnering with seed companies who are looking for faster breeding cycles and fewer resources. In the future, they hope to provide prescriptive insights to their customers and help develop crops that are more climate resistant. Enjoy the show!
Wendy: In this podcast, I interviewed Siddharth Jadhav, founder and CEO of Polybee--an autonomous microdrone company out of Singapore that is mimicking the work of bees and also taking very precise plant measurements in an effort to help farmers increase their yields. We talk about the critical role of pollination in food security and why Polybee is much more than a pollination as a service company. They are the first scalable drone solution targeting producers in controlled environment agriculture and partnering with seed companies who are looking for faster breeding cycles and fewer resources. In the future, they hope to provide prescriptive insights to their customers and help develop crops that are more climate resistant. Enjoy the show!

Wendy: Hello everybody, and welcome to the evolve.ag podcast. I am thrilled today to be interviewing Siddharth from Polybee of Singapore. Welcome to the show, Siddharth!
Siddharth: Hi, Wendy Thanks a lot for having me. I am Siddharth Jadhav founder and CEO of a startup called Polybee. We're based out of Singapore. What we're really doing is building autonomous micro drones for pollination and plant measurements in controlled environment agriculture. But for personal background, I was born and raised in India.
I studied uh, specifically chemical engineering. It's a bit surprising-- I know-- with what I do now. And my undergrad years, I was just, you know, trying to explore, dabble around, trying to find what really sticks my interests. And I was just generally fascinated by, you know, flight. I was into bird watching as a child and I was just really interested in the physics of flight. So that's basically how I got interested in drones. So in our university, we had a NATO modeling club where we would just, you know, build drones, fly them crash.
uh, and basically that's how the learning curve began. I kind of realized, you know, flight was something that I really want to study . And I started doing research for my bachelor's thesis on aerodynamics that was the first time I moved to Singapore for my thesis.
And soon after completing my thesis at the National University of Singapore, I was offered a job there as a researcher. And I did a bit of research on a variety of topics on drones know, starting from aerodynamics, control systems, system integration, and did research for about two to three years and some opportunities lined up quite serendipitously.
And as a researcher, I ended up exploring the commercial potential of my skills and projects. and then one thing led to another on how I ended up starting the company about two years back.
Wendy: Wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing that. I know Polybee is a company that actually uses drones for pollination. So how in the world did you get interested in pollination?
Siddharth: Yeah, that's, that's an interesting question but, but it's It's an interesting story, , . you know, so, I was quite intent on pursuing , graduate studies aerodynamics. actually I had a graduate admissions in some schools in the US for a PhD. Getting those admissions, it wasn't a resulting "yes" from my end. I just decided to give myself some more time to see if this is exactly what I want.
And, in that one year, I just decided to deadlift topics that I had never looked into before, such as, you know, robotics, computer vision. Joining some programs here at the National University of Singapore that encouraged researchers to explore the commercial potential of their projects and skills.
Uh, and one of these programs called VI launchpad is where I ended up joining, just out of curiosity. So that's, that's, that's where, more or less, the Genesis of the company was. And, on the other hand, I had been reading a lot about agriculture around that time.
I realized there' s absolutely nothing that I knew about agriculture , you know.
I don't know how this food comes to my plate at all. And that's when I started looking into it as an industry. And, you know, just trying to understand; what is it that is so broken about it? It's mankind's first invention. Why is it that it is so resource intensive in 2021? So with this, at the back of my mind, I ended up joining this program-- supposed to explore commercial potential of what we do and, having done work on drones. I was naturally inclined to look for applications in agriculture.
Around the same time. As you know, there was a lot of conversation around indoor farming in Singapore, given its emphasis on food security and the fact that, you know, the only way that we can grow anything here is in fully controlled environments. There was a lot of conversation around growing fruit crops and indoor farming.
And I had been reading about that and I wondered, if you want to grow food crops, how would you pollinate the flowers? Because it doesn't seem very intuitive to me that you'd be able to use natural pollinators. So I just started reaching out to a lot of companies here in Singapore, in Asia, in the US as well.
Indoor farming companies-- and everyone started getting back and they said, " this is an unsolved problem". You know, "it's one of the bottlenecks for us to expand into high-value crops. What are you proposing? Let's get on a call. Let's talk about it". So, that was a, that was kind of exciting.
It was the validation on the problem statement. That's how I first got interested in pollination, which is in a very narrow context of indoor farming. But as I kept reading about it, learning more and more about it. I realized it's not just limited to indoor farming, it's such a widespread problem. And what, initially seemed like a bond of opportunity was actually a sea of opportunity. I said, "okay, this problem is big". Uh, probably the right vehicle to solve it is starting a company. So that's how I first got interested in the pollination.
And that's how it sort of drove the decision of starting the company.
Wendy: I mean, I think this is a critical opportunity and I think it's a critical industry, as you said in Singapore, it's really hard to grow things because of the climate. And that's all over the world. And it's, it's anywhere that's even, semi-tropical, can't get certain fruits and vegetables year round for sure.
And then throw in storms and, all kinds of bad weather and soil erosion. And, this is definitely going to become even a bigger problem, the longer that we continue to do agriculture in the way that we've been doing it for so long. As storm s get worse and climate change changes things.
I think it's not just going to be a niche industry anymore. I think it's going to be huge. Do you want to give us a little bit of background about what some of the current problems are with pollination that Polybee is solving?
Siddharth: Yeah. Sure. Essentially, you know, maybe to take a step back. I just want to talk about the role of pollination in producing fruits and vegetables. The, the, reason why I want to reflect on this a little bit is, the economic importance of it. Uh, at it's core, pollination is the first and the most fundamental step in reproduction of plants.
It's basically the transfer of male gamuts to the female gamuts, which leads to the formation of seeds. And there's two main reasons why it's so economically important. Number one is: it's how we produce seeds. And so long as we need to produce food, we need seeds. So every single time there's a seed that is sown
Siddharth: it was made possible because of pollination. That's one main reason why we need to pay so much attention to this particular process and it's and the science behind it. The other reason is know, once seeds are formed, formed for a big fraction of crops that also leads to the formation of fruits and vegetables as a result of that.
And that's something that we ascribe economic value to. Essentially pollination plays a fundamental role in the production of such a huge fraction of fruits and vegetables. So all in all, that's why it's important to focus on pollination as a process. It's, It's why we, you know, we teased it down as a problem statement. In terms of what Polybee is doing today, you know, we don't like to see ourselves as a pollination service provider, per se.
Siddharth: We're more of a solution provider for improving yield. And the reason why we focus on pollination is because it plays such an important and influential role in governing what yield you can get from your cultivation It's sort of a clever way of improving yield, not just in quantity, but also quality.
If you look at the process, right, you can broadly categorize it into two main types. One is self pollination. The other is cross-pollination. And this is basically how, you know, you can categorize the majority of the fruit and vegetable crops that are economically important. For example, most of the crops grown in control environments are self pollinating. Crops like: tomatoes, berry crops, eggplant, pepper, or capsicum, as you would like to call it.
All of these are self pollinating. What that means is the male and female parts of the flower are on the same flower. And essentially what pollination looks like is, you know, this percent of pollen has fallen from the male parts to the female parts in the same flower. Right? So in that sense, the process is simpler.
The likelihood of pollination is higher. Which is why, it's generally referred to as a self pollination. On the other hand, a lot of perennial crops, like let's say, you know, avocados, almonds, mangoes, peaches, these are cross pollinating crops where in the pollen needs to be transferred from one flower to another-- which may or may not be on the same tree or plant as well.
So that in, you know, in terms of likelihood is a rarer event. Which is what also makes, you know, getting optimal yields a bit more a difficult. So all in all, that's how, that's the framework for thinking about pollination and its role in producing important crops. Now, what Polybee is interested in is improving yield in controlled environment agriculture very specifically.
The reason is that, you know, we are quite excited about the sector. It's growing really fast. It, it largely grows high-value crops. So as a startup, we see that as an exciting opportunity. So that's why we're focused on controlled environment agriculture. And within that sector, most of the crops are self pollinating crops, as I mentioned.
So that's why, you know, what we've done is we've built a technology stack that ensures pollination of the major crops that are grown in indoor farming. So based on this, we identified what are the capabilities that we need in place to solve this problem? How do we improve yield in controlled environment agriculture?
And we looked at, you know, two major inputs that that had the biggest impact on this, you know? Number one, is pollination and number two is plant measurements, you know, just sensing the state of the plant-- how it's responding to its environment and its inputs.
When it comes to pollination, we developed a method called aerodynamically controlled pollination. Basically it's a contactless method of pollination by drones essentially--pollinates all kinds of crops grown in controlled environments.
On the other hand, we've built capabilities that allow us to measure the sort of, key traits on plants to help close the feedback loop. So essentially that's how we like to view our solution. It's a yield improvement solution of which pollination is one feature and plant measurements is another feature.
Wendy: I love that. I mean, I think one of the things with controlled environment is that everyone's doing a lot of leafy greens, and it's very hard for companies to even start thinking about, "okay, well, how do we dive into something that needs to be pollinated" and things like that.
So, I mean, just in general, I think it's incredible that you guys are thinking "okay, how can we assist this industry-- we don't necessarily have open our own vertical farm or a controlled environment agriculture center", but you're providing the technology that, the industry really, really needs at this point.
Secondly, I mean, I'd love to hear more about the plant measurement side of this too, because I think that's another whole kind of like gray area that a lot of CEA is scratching the surface of, but they don't quite have the technology or they're just focused on the bottom line right now. And they're not really worried about next steps. obviously going to be, you know, a very important part of the industry, especially if it wants to scale and evolve and be able to support large numbers of people at a decent price.
Siddharth: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I think you're absolutely right. when you said that, you know, we're just about scratching the surface when it comes tothe state of the plant and controlled environment agriculture. Um, just one quick point I wanna make is that when we talk about controlled environment ag, we see it as a, as a spectrum between fully controlled indoor vertical farms to, high-tech glass houses with a fair degree of control to polytunnels with minimal control.
So that's how we like to view our go to market. And I think the, the urgency, and I'd say the market pull, for this feature of plant measurements is distributed in that sense. For example, a lot of indoor vertical farms have invested a lot of their resources in having these capabilities in house to varying degrees. But you know, the most well-funded companies have more or less figured it out for themselves. Uh, when it comes to high-tech glass houses, which is, you know, in terms of market size, the biggest I'd say , fraction of controlled environment ag. Also in terms of, you know, economic viability so far . There, plant measurements is sort of an unsolved problem.
We like to see plant as a bioreactor, and, what it is essentially, what it does, it takes in inputs of certain forms. You know, it could be a certain environment or biological inputs, chemical inputs, nutrients, water...
And as an output, what we get is a biomass that is of a certain economic value to us. You know, it could be a food, it could be a vegetable, it could be the plant itself. And, just like any other bio-reactor would need a feedback controller. So do plants, right. And feedback control is not possible if you're not even able to measure the current state of the plant.
And that's where there's a huge gap right now. If we do not have objective, consistent digital means to measure the state of the plant, skilled growers are, you know, on instinct, through and, you know, they've seen in so long. they kind of know, okay, this is, if this is what I observe, this is how I need to tweak my inputs.
Right. But there's only so many skilled growers out there in the world. And if you're looking at controlled environment ag , you know, as one of our most important tools of to enhance a food security... You know,like it or not, we're not going to be able to produce so many skilled growers all at once. So we, what we need to do is empower growers through digital tools. And the one that we're focused on is having this technology where you're able to measure the exact state of the plant. And we're doing that through two of our technology pillars: one is autonomous drones. What this enables us is to measure the state of every single plant, almost every single day.
The other pillar of technology that we leverage here is computer vision, which enables us to accurately measure traits along three main categories. The first category is plant health and stress.
So we look at measurements like canopy temperature. We look at chlorosis trajection using NIR imaging. Then the second category of measurements is yield quantity. We're able to measure exactly how many fruits that are on a tomato vine, for example. What's their rate of growth.
You know, what's their status? Are they ripe, good for harvest? And then the last category of measurement is yield quality varied. Also you'll be able to go to the level of measuring the dimensions of these fruits. So that's basically how we like to view uh, plant measurements in terms of categories. restarting.We're starting off at a point where we are focusing on diagnostics. Let's just make sure that we're able to measure the state accurately. Then we can start as, as we start collecting more and more data, we can look at, prescriptive analytics. And when we master that, we collect all the more data and get to a point where we are offering predictive insights. So all in all, that's how we like to view our roadmap in terms of plant measurements. It's a way of closing the feedback loop on cultivation and it's something that is applicable across the board, across crops, in controlled environment, ag.
Wendy: Wow. That's amazing. And so I'm envisioning in my head that these drones have little cameras on them and they're flying around the greenhouses and inside the vertical farms and whatnot, and, scanning off the plants. Is that actually how it works?
Siddharth: Yeah, that's more or less how it should look like. Essentially, you know, how they ended up even starting to work on this problem is that... The first step was actually pollination for us. Right? And when we started working on pollination we started building out these pillars of technology that I talked about, right.
Autonomous showrooms, computer vision. And then as we worked with growers closely, we realized that we have these pillars of tech that can be easily transferable to another big problem. Which is, you know, measuring the state of the plant. In that sense, we already had the foundation in place to solve this problem with what we're doing with pollination.
And the interesting thing is that with the exact same technology stack, we're able to solve two major problems in controlled environment ag --sort of two birds with one stone. So how each of these, you know, operations are managed by drones is pretty simple.
Let's say if you're in a greenhouse, which is about a hectare in size. It can be broken down into certain areas of crops. we allocate drones for every single part. So you can think about it as a massively bounded operation, where you know, for a hectare maybe you need about 20 to 30 drones to conduct pollination, as well as, plant measurements.
And, one of the key challenges about flying small size drones, for us, the drones can be as small as about nine centimeters. Some of the drones we have used in greenhouses are slightly bigger about 15 centimeters. You know, if the are really small, the challenge that you'll run into is endurance.
And that's something that we get asked-- how are you going to be able to cover so much range with such small drones? And we're solving that problem by autonomous docking and charging. Once you have the capability of automation, it can be also sort of channeled into ensuring that you're running a perpetual loop where let's say a drone takes off... Pollinating about a hundred or 200 plants, maybe, you know, in one full charge. And then when it's out of charge, it lands back. It recharges and then it goes to the same place where it left from .And this loop can be running perpetually, you know, be it for pollination be it for crop measurement.
So all in all, hopefully a couple of years down the line, what we can see is a hectare of a glass house with about 20 to 30 drones. Each of them managing a certain area where the operations are running perpetually. If they run out of charge, they dock, they recharge and they resume operations.
So that's our sort of vision for this particular solution.
Wendy: I can see it in my head right now. That's amazing. I really hope that's the case. Cause I know there's a lot of folks out there who have, actual bees inside their controlled environment, agriculture-- inside their farms. And that's great. But at the same time, It opens up a whole world of other issues, right?
If the bees happened to be carrying some kind of disease with them, getting all bees back into the hive at some point and making sure no one gets stung. I mean, I can just think the list goes on and on and on. You guys are also taking these measurements, which bees obviously can't do.
So it's really amazing. So it sounds like your customers are basically any type of controlled environment agriculture. But are there any other industries where you see this could be applied to, or that you're thinking about also, maybe checking out or delving
Siddharth: Oh, yeah, absolutely. So, you know, Our customers are largely along two main sectors. As you mentioned, the greenhouse operators uh, vertical local farms are probably the, you know, I'd say obvious ones. Uh, but we also work a lot with seed companies. At the end of the day, how we like to view ourselves is a solution provider that's ,you know, building solutions to improve productivity across different functions in agriculture. And if you look at what we're building out in terms of technology, be it self pollination or plant measurements, it is of immense value to the seed industry. Essentially, what we are going to see development of new varieties as more of a problem statement in product design, right?
Uh, essentially how that would work is, given the dynamic nature of consumer demand, climate change. The kind of traits that one would want from their varieties is going to change really fast. And that has consequence on plant breeders, right?
Siddharth: Because it takes years and years, you know, sometimes after 10 years to breed new varieties of plant. If the targets are moving so fast, there's no way you can meet them. What you are trying to do here is take care of a function within breeding, which is phenotyping-- essentially-- measurement of certain traits of plants that are economically important.
And, you know, the tech stack is exactly the same. Whatever technology we're using for performing plant measurements for greenhouse grower is exactly the same that, you know, we'd be offering to a plant breeder and a seed company, right. Because at the end of the day, it's the information on the plant, it's the state of the plant that is the deliverable from our end. And we see this as a really key piece, especially when it comes to contributing to food security, because plant breeding is going to be one of our most important tools going forward when it comes to combating with climate change, you know, the goalposts are going to change really fast.
We're going to need more climate resistant varieties, more disease-resistant new varieties. That's a really hard and complex problem, right? We need to understand the relationship between the genome of the plant and the phenotype that it expresses. And seed companies are extremely well-equipped when it comes to understanding the genomics of plants, but how it actually translates into phenotypes is actually a problem in data science.
Unless they have accurate and consistent information on what these phenotypes look like... And unless it's measurable, it's quite hard for them to map the phenotypes back to the genome. What we're trying to do here is offer them the, you know, the high quality information that is necessary for them to map the phenotypes back to the genome.
And that is through digital phenotyping. Of course we've seen a lot interest and a lot of resources being deployed to build out these capabilities internally within the companies, there's all sorts of startups working on it. Where we are focused, is phenotyping of food and vegetable crops to begin with because that's largely what we worked on so far and With this capability seed companies can actually accelerate their breeding cycles because they'd have more accurate, reliable information. Which means they'd be able to map back the phenotype to the genome more accurately. And what that means is faster breeding cycles and lesser resources.
So, in an ideal world, a phenotype is entirely digitalized. We could see productive growing cycles probably going down to half of what they are today.
So that's something that, you know, we are quite excited about as a prospect.
Wendy: That's also incredible. I mean, and that kind of comes full circle too, because now that there is such a push towards controlled environment agriculture, the whole structure of seeds and plants is changing to be able to fit inside these indoor environments too. So I'd argue that not only are you working on this from pollination standpoint, but you're also helping, with the seed development.
And that's again, one more element of controlled environment ag that I don't think people have really thought through-- that these things need to happen before this industry can really explode and be on price parity and costs and even, you know, yield, I would say too, so super exciting what you guys are doing.
And a question I should've asked you earlier, but are the drones autonomous? Or is there an actual person, manning the drone behind
the scenes?
Siddharth: When we started building out our pillars of technology we did a lot of emphasis on automation. It's a fundamental capability to solve these problems unless it's there. We're not really getting humans out of the loop, which is more or less the core of the problem, right?
It's, it's, it's the cost, it's the consistency of human performance in this
kind of a sector that, that we need to look beyond. So automation was one of the major capabilities that we focused on. As it stands, the solution is fully autonomous, right? When it's deployed, the drones take off from the ground station, they perform pollination,
collect plant measurements, and when they run out of charge, they return to home. Charge themselves. and then, resume operations where they left from. And this is a perpetually running loop, which is fully anonymous. We have have achieved that level of automation already in indoor vertical farms, we've done that too in greenhouses, all the certain features are being built as we speak.
Siddharth: It's just about, turning that into a fantastic product, which is reliable and robust. So that's the journey that we are traveling now, uh, through trials, through deployments, not just in Singapore, but also overseas in countries like Australia and the UK.
And you as we deploy more, as we engage with users more, we learn so much and, kind of probably introduced the first scalable drone solution in agriculture, which is entirely being used by our customers. Automation is going to be the differentiating capability that gets us there.
Wendy: That's amazing.
So, what has been some of the major challenges that you faced thus far with Polybee? I mean, it's a couple of years old and you've got a couple of people working for you, but what have been some of the surprising challenges?
Siddharth: Well, I could go on forever, but you know, there's, this, there's a few that are typical of know, early stage companies. And there are some that are specific to the industry. I think the first real challenge that we ran into was the pandemic and its effect on our roadmap. Because earlier last year, we were you know, in the middle of closing some contracts for deployments in the region and also overseas and all of that came to a standstill.
Essentially it kind of threw off our timelines quite significantly and forced us to think, "what exactly is our first solution?, Who exactly are our first customers?" Given that all of these things are moving so fast, we just have to go back to the drawing board once again.
there's a silver lining there for us because we were able to sort of introspect and meditate
and I think the clarity that we got through this process was that we are focused on improving yield. That's the main objective. Yes, of course we're building technologies for pollination-- super exciting-- it gets us a lot of attention. We're also working on plant measurements, which also in itself is an important solution, but all of these are features, right?
These are means to an end goal and the end goal is to improve yield. So we got that kind of clarity, you know, after reflecting on it for a few months sort of, introspecting and talking to customers That was one. you know, The other challenges, I think in agriculture are of course, know, I'd say pretty easy to appreciate, is that the time scales are different.
Right. Unlike, let's say, if you're, if you're building an app for consumers or, any sort of service uh, for consumers, the time cycles are much shorter. You can iterate faster. In here, especially when you're trying to, know, build something like a pollination solution, you just
wait for a certain amount of time to find out how well the solution is working. That's just for your internal understanding. I think it has bigger consequences when it comes to working with the customers, right? Because firstly, there is a little bit of fatigue when it comes to being a drone company in agriculture because there's been a lot of, lot of such companies out there.
telling growers, "Hey, we'll give you a lot of data and you know, maybe you can improve your farm management through that achieved some incremental benefits..." But that's not as exciting to growers anymore. We have seen a lot of receptivity for something like pollination specifically because it's an operation that gets things done in the farm but there's also a healthy degree of skepticism. Okay. We need to know how well it works because if you don't have the bandwidth to accommodate something that fails. Right? So we want to be very sure that when you deploy the solution, it actually improves our yield and not mitigates them.
And it's, it's a controlled industry. So all in all the margin for error is really low and that kind of translates into a tougher problem straightened for us. Right. Getting there, you know, getting, getting the confidence of customers in itself it's a long process. Like it or not, we have to wait until we prove it to our customers through trials and only then we win their confidence through the trials is when we can deploy the solution at scale.
So I think that's a more peculiar, challenge in agriculture, especially for the kind of solution that we are building. And then lastly, there's of course challenges hiring the right people finding out who are the sort of partners you'd like to work with. Being in the Singapore ecosystem, we've been quite fortunate in that sense.
But yeah, I think at the end of the day, finding the right folks to join ,who are sort of a great culture fit, who are as driven and, who value working on important problems and are skilled at the same time, is a huge challenge.
So, I think those are the, I'd say high-level reflections on the challenges that I have faced so far, and I'm pretty sure there's plenty more.
Wendy: Yeah, it's almost as if you all are a niche within a niche-- you're a niche agriculture in a niche within drones and you you put these two together and, it's a very specific thing. Where do you see Polybee in a couple of years, I'd say two years out or five years out?
What's the future?
Siddharth: What we have clarity on is the objective which is to improve yield. To do that, we have to be able to deploy the solution at scale. So that is what is on the top of our mind. After proving to our customers that our solution works, how do we move from one to end?
And how do we make sure that we're able to deploy the solution on tens of hectares of glass house or greenhouse area and make sure that it works day in and day out. So two, three years down the line, what we'd like to see is that, we have run through these trials, we've won the confidence of our customers. They want us to deploy the solutions at scale. And we've been able to do that on hectares and hectares of glass houses where, the customers are our users. They are the ones deploying the solution. They are the ones who are comfortable with it and around these drones that are flying all the time. And they're happy with its reliability and robustness.
And in a sense, we've truly achieved improving yield. Let's say for tomato glass house grower was able to get, 60 to 70 kilograms of tomatoes, every season per square meter. Then we'd like that number to be bumped up to our solution by even if it's, five or 10 kilograms even if it's 10, 20%, it's, it's a, it's a huge bump up in their top line.
And we'd like to see those numbers, show up, not just in trials, but at scale. That's our vision for the next two, three years.
Wendy: Wonderful. One thing we haven't talked about is funding and who's supporting Polybee? Are you seeking funding? Will you be seeking funding in the future?
Siddharth: Yes, absolutely. uh, Polybee is actually a spinoff venture from the National University of Singapore. We went to the university's accelerator program and we raised our pre-seed funds from there. Following which we performed trials with Singapore Food Agency, which is the government statuary board for agriculture here in Singapore.
And looking at the promise of.our technology, Temasek foundation, which is the philanthropy arm of Temasek holdings, undoubtedly, one of the biggest investors in agribusiness today decided to support us because, they could see the potential of this technology, not just in Singapore's context, but generally speaking, in the context of controlled environment, agriculture globally. So looking at the promise, we raised funds from the Temasek foundation it was, more or less an equivalent of a typical seed round in Singapore.
We had clear goals when we raised those funds. It was to de-risk our tech, de-risk our business, and de-risk our team. We've more or less, sort of checked those boxes by now. We are a team of five. The team is highly multidisciplinary in scale. We have been engaging with the biggest companies in agribusiness, in the seeds industry...We'vealready expanded our operations beyond Singapore. We have trials coming up in the UK, in Australia early next year. and, all in all we have a good grip on: what are the specs of our product? Who the customers are? What do we need to achieve in the next two to three years?
And, you know, as these results from Australia start trickling in, and also as we, we get a better sense of where we've deployed solutions, we'll be in a great position to expand our team. And, bring that solution from one to end, and be very prepared for scaling up.
So we do anticipate fundraising in the near future. We're quite confident about where we are headed. And, just a matter of time where we'll be looking to expand our teams.
Wendy: Sounds great. So one last question. What does the future of agriculture look like in your opinion?
Siddharth: That's a tough one. because, you know, I think How I like to think about agriculture is that it's a part of the food value chain. And essentially, even calling it a chain is probably an understatement. It's more of a complex web, with a lot of, nodes in it.
And I think the bigger question here is around how do we enhance food security for our population, because, the walls are really closing in, right. We need to produce so much more for the growing population.Amidst climate change amidst depleting resources. So it's a really hard problem. right? If you look at the complex web of food as a, as a sector. Every single node needs disruption, be it agricultural inputs, agricultural production, supply chain, food wastage... These nodes need disruption. We're just going to need so many more
smart people looking into this and solving problems, taking on the hardest problems that, that interests them. And, and building companies around them or doing, really risky research around it. So that's how I can see us answering food security. specifically indoor agriculture. I think the biggest problems are combating depleting resources, labor shortage, and climate change.
I think there's a bit of a distribution there in terms of what kinds of crops we grew. Even within that distribution, specifically fruit and veggie crops are, unfortunately, going to be the Canary in the coal mine, when it comes to climate change.
First up in, in these kinds of crops, given that they are a bit more uh, finicky to grow and the question is going to be going to, how are we going to insulate these high value crops from climate change and that's where controlled environment ag comes. And I think we see a lot more protected agriculture, protective cropping in the next two years and decades.
When it comes to field crops, I think that's a tough one because yeah, I can't imagine growing rice and corn in protected environments. Uh, probably that's not going to happen, but instead I think that'd be viewed more of as a problem in molecule biology and plant breeding, you know, how do we get the best traits out of these crops?
Siddharth: How do we understand what's even possible, but in the realm of breeding? And that'll involve understanding the relationship between the phenotypes and the genome of these plants. I think, I'm no molecular biologist, but I've heard from a lot of smart people in the industry that we've barely scratched the surface when it comes to tapping into what nature has to offer in terms of genetics.
I'm, hearing and reading about it has made me a bit more optimistic about rural crops and field crops. So I think we'd like to play a very small part is in helping these companies understand the relationship between the traits of the plants, which we can help them understand through digital phenotyping and the genome,which is what their expertise is.
So I think the hopefully can develop new varieties, which are significantly more climate resilient for row crops and even be able to combat really hard problems, like, you know, rising temperatures, extreme climate conditions and storms as well. So that's how I view the, sort progress in agriculture, across different sectors.
But then at the end of the day, I'd also like to remind myself that agriculture is just a small part in the entire food value chain. And we need to work on many such nodes to make sure there's food on everyone's plate.
Wendy: I couldn't agree more and I think it's happening. There's so many really incredible space age innovations happening in food right now that, you know, blow my mind every time I read about them. So I think we're definitely headed in the right direction. Singapore is a hotbed for that. You all have had cellular agriculture, , top companies producing that! There's been a ton of CEA happening there. It's really such an incredible place for people being aware of food and where their food comes from. So I want to go ahead and wrap up. But how can the audience follow you? Are you all on Instagram, Twitter? All the usual social
Siddharth: I'm fairly active on LinkedIn so they can find me on LinkedIn. and, I also have Twitter.
So I'm, I'm decently active on Twitter as well. So yeah, I'd love to get in touch with folks who might be interested in what we do.
Wendy: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast today and sharing these innovative technology that you're developing and your passion. It really, really comes through in stories that you're telling and the way that you just express everything about this industry. I can just tell you're so excited and you're so passionate about it.
So thank you for doing it. Thank you for being part of the change and thank you for so much for being on the podcast.
Siddharth: The pleasure is entirely mine, Wendy, thanks so much for having me and recognizing the work that we do. It's it's every now and then it's a, it's a nice reminder that, what we're building is important uh, and kinda reinforces our belief in it. So thank you so much.