A Hamilton farmer who created the first artificial intelligence-enabled digital assistant, AIMER, to optimise pasture management, has just launched a further tool that estimates how much pasture is in a paddock, improving environmental performance, saving farmers time measuring pasture themselves.

Jeremy Bryant founded Aimer Farming to utilise artificial intelligence (AI) – hence the startup name – to save farmers time and to improve farm profitability. The Aimer digital tool and assistant operating system app is New Zealand’s most comprehensive and economical pasture management and will eventually incorporate chatbot functions.

His new product, Aimer Vision, will also be used via farmers’ mobile phones. It’s estimated farmers can increase profit by $400 per hectare through regular and accurate pasture management via Vision and then using AI in Aimer, maximising the amount and quality of pasture that cows consume.

The AI on the app, together with the phone’s camera, assesses individual paddocks on a farm, quickly estimating and analysing the pasture mass and cover of each paddock, before giving direct recommendations on steps to improve pasture management.

“That’s what’s unique about it – it can look ahead,” Bryant says. “It saves people so much time – farmers don’t have the drudgery of walking around the farm for four hours. You go and do a 360 degree turn in a paddock, and the tool estimates how much pasture is in the paddock, and in other paddocks, then you bundle that up with the digital operating system.”

Bryant, who is also Chief Technical Officer at Aimer, was raised on a farm and worked on one for three years after leaving school. While at university he developed a dairy cow digital twin – a digital representation of a cow – as part of his PhD in Quantitative Genetics and Modelling at Massey University. His research simulated what might happen if you give a cow a certain amount of feed.

“That was the start of how I got into modelling. I’ve always liked numbers,” Bryant says. “Generating insight or foresight is hard. You’ve got to programme the computer to understand the farm system and that’s where I`m probably relatively unique in the world.”

Five years later Bryant founded Aimer Farming after going through the Sprout Agritech business accelerator programme run by Callaghan Innovation. He initially consulted for three days a week, using some of that income to build his startup.

Aimer is the fifth investment of more than 30 NZ$1 million agritech and foodtech investments Sprout will make over six years. Sprout has also provided assistance on scaling the startup, and provided a director for Aimer’s board.

“Towards the tail end of that acceleration, Sprout said they’d potentially like to invest in us and so we went through due diligence,” Bryant says. “The $1m investment came in September last year and that’s when I went full time.”

Aimer currently has staff of eight, with about 25 New Zealand farmers currently using the app, launched just three months ago, as well as some in Australia and Chile. Bryant says running a startup is not much different to running a farm – juggling multiple balls and leading people instead of cows – and he relishes working for himself, rather than re-entering the corporate or science world.

Aimer Farming App.

“I decided I wanted to be my own boss and create something different for farmers,” he says. “I didn’t want to be part of a corporate – and I decided now is a good time to do that. You can control your own destiny more and get more satisfaction.”

As a new startup founder, Bryant relishes the mental challenge, having built something to assist others make better decisions. Had he started Aimer now he would, in hindsight, have brought people with business knowledge in earlier. So, he has had to pick up business terminology, manage staff, make decisions quickly and continually learn and be adaptive.

“If you think you know it all, you are not going to learn. One day you may be wearing a tech hat, another day you are fundraising. You have to make snap decisions, and back yourself. You’re never going to always make the right decisions,” says Bryant.

Bryant is continually seeking opportunities to make potential customers aware of Aimer Farming products, through social media, attending Fieldays and other events throughout the country.

“Unless you get in front of people at events they are just not going to find out about Aimer. You must take those opportunities to deliver it to people.”

Story by Dave Crampton in partnership with Sprout.

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