This interview details Canobi AgTech, an indoor farming technology company based in Canada. The interview is with Robin Vincent, Founder of Canobi AgTech.
What is the origin story of Canboi AgTech?
I was working in the aquarium business and a huge problem in that industry at the time was that when you transplant fish into a new aquarium, you can have up to 70% transplant shock. So I started a business developing technologies for aquariums to reduce problems. Our products deal with automated lighting and nutrient balancing, and so after being involved with that business for some time, I became interested in indoor farming and the experience was very relevant with similar technology required.
What are some of the challenges facing Canobi AgTech and objectives in the future?
We have been doing this business for eight years now, and I would say one of the biggest challenges in any business is finding great people to add to your team. If you have the right people, that will take you a long way.
What crops are you most focused on Canobi AgTech? What trends are you seeing in indoor farming?
We are seeing a big focus on strawberries. Presently our business is about 70% food and 30% cannabis/hemp and a significant portion of the food is strawberries. It's a hot item that commands a high price point. In fact, right now we are conducting research in our own indoor research farm on strawberries, as well as some other crops.
What are your opinions on Container farms versus traditional large-scale farms?
Because of my background, my perspective on the matter differs slightly. In my view, business continuity is akin to managing a farm, requiring a certain level of redundancy in the systems used. The idea is to avoid single points of failure because it's not a matter of "if" they will fail, but rather "when." Consequently, I have some reservations about container farming, especially when attempting to consolidate all the necessary systems within one container. This approach often leads to a loss of space, resulting in a cramped and uncomfortable working environment. Additionally, it creates numerous single points of failure since duplicating systems becomes challenging.
Container farms, with their specific attributes, are sometimes set up outdoors or in places where they heavily rely on these systems functioning non-stop. This approach seems like putting all your eggs in one basket, which can be risky. However, I am aware that some container farm manufacturers have adopted a more modular approach, incorporating a high level of redundancy into their systems. These solutions are not necessarily cheap but appear to be the right way forward. By compartmentalizing and building in redundancy based on individual business models, it provides a more secure and sustainable approach to container farming.
What is unique about Canobi AgTech compared to competitors?
Early on, we made a crucial decision that set us apart from others - we identified three key components essential for farm management. The first is monitoring and automation, which many companies are also involved in. The others are farm management tools and business tools ERP. However, what truly distinguishes us is our fully integrated platform that incorporates all three components seamlessly. As far as I'm aware, we might still be the only ones with this level of integration. Though this perspective may seem a bit naive, I've attended numerous shows, and yet to come across anything similar. Some companies that have achieved this level of integration have gone on to develop an impressive growth system.
So they have a completely integrated software platform for their growth system. Instead of imposing a specific system on farmers or growers, we adopted a different approach. We remain completely agnostic, allowing users to employ Canobi with any system they prefer or have purchased. The platform covers three crucial aspects: monitoring, automation, and comprehensive business tools. This integration enables users to oversee their entire business, from the grow room to both the supply chain and customer interactions.
How do you measure the impact of your company so far? (Revenue, Employees, Customer Quantity, Production Volume) etc?
Our top priority, at the end of the day, is ensuring the satisfaction of our customers. We operate as a hybrid model, offering both hardware-as-a-service and software-as-a-service solutions. While we provide hardware, it serves as a robust foundation for running our software. However, it's important to note that we are not primarily a hardware design and manufacturing company.
Profitability is essential for us, but we value every customer, regardless of size. We are particularly interested in smaller deals and catering to smaller customers. Building strong relationships with these clients allows us to understand their needs better. When we gain their trust and deliver a great product, they tend to stick with us for future endeavors and upgrades. We aim to be the go-to partner whenever they face challenges or want to expand their systems. The key to our success lies in making our customers happy from the very beginning.
We have fewer than 50 operations, mainly focusing on vertical farms for food cultivation rather than cannabis production.
What have you learned that you wish you knew when you started the company?
One of the most significant lessons I've learned and continue to learn daily is the importance of having an excellent advisory team and a strong network of individuals closely connected to the company. This allows for open and transparent sharing while also bringing valuable insights to the business. Being an entrepreneur can be immensely challenging when tackled alone.
Therefore, building a diverse and reliable group of people around you, whom you can consistently rely on, is truly invaluable - it's like having a treasure worth its weight in gold.
How can people connect with you or learn more about Canobi AgTech?
I believe one of the key lessons I've learned is the significance of our website and social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) presence. I recognize its immense importance for our business. Our social media platforms and website play a crucial role in booking demos, which I consider essential for anyone interested in this industry.
Throughout our journey, we've experienced different waves of development. One noteworthy observation is that while there are many tools available, it's crucial to do thorough research and analyze live data to understand how software truly performs in the real world. We value live data from our clients who willingly share their experiences during demos, allowing us to delve into their successes and failures.
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