Green Labs: Food prices are going up and up, and it’s universal. Global climate change, the world’s prolonged battle against the Covid19, and Russia’s war in Ukraine have shaken the global food supply value chain. The FAO Food Price Index, a benchmark for global food price, averaged 166.3 points in June. That’s 27.6% higher than only a year before.
Green Labs, a South Korean agricultural technology startup, believes data and digitization can help sustainably resolve this crisis. “If you use the right data in the right way in farming, it can dramatically increase the crop yield,” said Luke Donghyun Ahn, co-founder, and CEO of the company. “It can also reduce the amount of discarded food by wholesalers and retailers,” he added.
The Seoul-based firm owns ‘Farm Morning,’ a comprehensive agricultural data platform app. Farm morning offers various information ranging from crop cultivation methods and government subsidies opening to auction sales prices. The app was launched in July 2020 and quickly became among the most popular apps amongst Korean farmers. The number of cumulative users exceeds 700,000. And the app’s monthly active users(MAU) total about the same number. Because there are 1.3 million farmers in South Korea, one of two farmers in the country uses Green labs’ service.
Each data sources vary from high-tech IoT(Internet of Things) devices to traditional documents from community centers. They also collect information from ‘human sources’; hundreds of employees all over South Korea find regional data in person. “The employees mainly cover the information that is not yet available online, such as regional subsidies programs for certain varieties of the crop,” said Ahn, “And we run algorithms on the information they acquire, making them be in standardized form for the users.”
Farm Morning also provides a ‘Farming Curriculum’ to the farmers. It suggests good environmental schemes for the crop in great detail per their life cycle. The temperature, nutrition, and water needs of crops differ according to the surrounding environment, so it uses AI and IoT sensors to find the correct value for current weather conditions. The company has installed sensors on more than 2000 farms across the country and analyzes how crops respond to different environmental situations. According to Ahn, the farming manual helps the farmers up the crop yield by 20~100%.
Tweaking environmental conditions with data means farmers can consistently meet the crop’s needs. “It helps the crops to be grown more uniformly in terms of size and nutritional contents.” Ahn noted, “which means fewer products get discarded for not meeting the requirement of the distributors.”
The founders of Green Labs are not farmers. But they know their way around platform and data businesses. Green Labs was founded in 2017 by Ahn, Scott Sungwoo Choi, and Charlie Sanghoon Shin. Ahn, who leads the company’s domestic business, launched the shopping platform ‘Kucha’ with Choi in 2010 and successfully exited. Shin’s first startup was a dating platform app ‘Amanda’ which had 3 million users when Shin sold the company.
Green Labs made 100 billion won in revenue last year. The company has raised 240 billion won in total to date. The latest money came from SK Square, the investment firm of the second-largest Korean conglomerate, SK group. SK Square funded 35 billion won to Green Labs.
The startup plans to launch a global service. It will test the international version of Farm Morning by the end of the year. Their goal is to make Farm Morning “the google in the agricultural industry.” “We hope to innovate the whole value chain of agriculture using data and AI.” Ahn said, “it will empower farmers to have more profit and better control over their products, as well as help reduce current food supply problem in a more sustainable way.”