After years of working in academia researching land use change, agricultural sustainability, and satellite applications in crop production, Mutlu Ozdogan, Agrograph’s Founder and Chief Science Officer, tried his hand at applying scientific data modeling to the private agricultural industry. The venture merged his passion for data science with the challenge to create scalable business models. Today, Mutlu has found his niche. He leads data science at Agrograph where he works with a hand-curated, skilled team to create reliable and actionable technology solutions for customers.
The journey began in 2016. Mutlu partnered with Jim O’Brien, CEO to found Agrograph, launching him into the startup space where he would create a series of ready-to-use scores and reports that modeled risk for the agricultural industry. The most notable, the Credit Score of Ag™, would put Agrograph on the map as a leading fintech startup serving agricultural finance clients. Today, the startup offers a series of AGROS™ Scores and Reports to meet the needs of modern agricultural businesses.
"We didn’t want to just sell a product, we wanted to sell a solution to a problem."
I sat down with Mutlu to learn more about the journey and to understand the design and value behind Agrograph’s AGROS™ Scores and Reports.
MIRANDA: So, let’s take a look at Agrograph’s journey in becoming the Credit Score of Agriculture™. It’s evident that it’s been very intentional and revolutionary. How did you identify the need for these solutions? How did this all come about?
MUTLU: Intentional is the perfect word to describe it, yes. We didn’t want to just sell a product, we wanted to sell a solution to a problem.
When Jim and I started the company, we analyzed crop type and yield mapping across the state of Iowa for a project. When we mapped this data out, we quickly realized that we could tell a story. The vast variation across different regions was informative and we realized that this data could be utilized for, back then, those in crop insurance and banking roles.
Since then, we’ve grown. We’d take meetings and pilot our technology with various companies. It confirmed what we suspected - that there is a need for more extensive and applicable data to assist in banking and insurance processes that so often lack streamlining and innovation.
I’m thankful to play a role in that effort and truly believe that what we are doing is paving the way for a better business climate for both producers and those managing the risk tied to that.
For anyone who has just discovered Agrograph, let’s start with the basics. What are Agrograph’s AGROS™ Scores and Reports?
The data tools we develop are, like I said earlier, intentional. We aren’t creating tools just so that we can sell products, we are creating tools that solve the problems industries supporting agriculture are facing.
Scores are our way of assigning meaning to data. These are tools that allow for farm-to-farm benchmarks. Our reports aggregate scores of variables that are unique to Agrograph to give users deeper insights. Think of this like a credit report. A score tells you where you fall against your peers and a report tells you why.
We combine information on things that you can control, such as management practices, inputs and planting dates with the things that you can’t - like soil characteristics, climate conditions and weather patterns.
How do the AGROS™ Scores and Reports create value for ag businesses? And how long does it take for a company to realize the benefits from your solutions?
There are a lot of areas in our businesses that we can streamline but we often overlook. A lot of times it's because someone doesn’t have access to the data, or doesn’t see the relationships between this data and a business model. AGROS™ Scores and Reports help you do that. In the short term, they’re used to evaluate and manage risk, but in the long term our partners can recognize trends and volatility and plan for such occurrences. We’ve also seen, through specific use cases, companies that have sped up processes through automation and even increased their customer reach. It can help our partners manage clients and improve their services. Essentially we’re helping improve in areas you may not have even realized.
So where does the data come from? And what’s its journey from collection, say in a database, to customers via an AGROS™ Score or Report?
The data are derived from verified sources like satellite observation, public databases, private data providers and biophysical models. Our analysis however, is proprietary. You can access a slew of data sources from several places, but it means nothing if it isn’t analyzed and generated through a systematic approach. Because of that, our analytics are proprietary to us.
The scientifically validated data points are run through vigorous validation exercises to ensure that the output is reliable. And then, depending on the solution, the appropriate data points to use are assigned.
What advice do you give companies who are interested in these tools but are unsure if they are a good fit for their processes?
My advice is to start with the question. What is your ultimate goal and what do you need data to tell you? It’s easy to get bogged down in our solutions, how the data is sourced, and how to apply it. Our team’s domain expertise spans from soil science, to finance, to data modeling. We collaborate to create the models with you. I guess I’m trying to say don’t feel like you need all the answers. And, being the scientists we are, we get excited about the challenge.
Interested in learning more? Connect with Mutlu today!