Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we’re talking with Dr Nancy Schellhorn, CEO and co-founder of RapidAIM.
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea
RapidAIM takes the guesswork out of pest surveillance, detection and management. Delivered as a service, RapidAIM provides insect alerts in real-time across the region, farm and field for early detection, and targeted control.
Insect pests like to eat the crops that we like to eat, so insecticides are often necessary to produce the blemish free food that consumers demand. However, managing insects in food crops is expensive and a guessing game; growers are forced to protect their crop with frequent broad-scale sprays. RapidAIM uses novel sensors that detect insect pests and send an alert to the mobile app of the end user. With RapidAIM, end users have confidence that control is working and crops are protected.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?
We’ve raised VC from Main Sequence Ventures. We also received a grant from the federal government to rollout the technology in five locations, and we’ve pitched at events and received awards (Future Food Asia – Singapore $100k!). Most importantly, we’re starting to sell subscriptions to customers.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?
Providing a solution to a problem that hasn’t existed before! There’s an education component.
How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?
We are different. We are next-gen pest management. Insecticides are an important part of our food production system. However, they’re often applied with a blunt instrument – cover sprays over crops. This leads to a wide range of problems; diffuse pollution farm; flaring of other pests. RapidAIM can change this. Our novel low-power, low cost sensor that detects the behavioural finger print of an insect entering a trap can be rolled out at high density across orchards, farms and regions.
Other automated insect monitoring products are quite expensive so devices are placed infrequently, and they can only really provide information of a trend over time. Putting RapidAIM insect alert information into the hands of growers means that they can better target when and where to spray and have confidence that their pest management program is working.
What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?
Besides our own RapidAIM app, Google Maps.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
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