Simone Barakat, a product manager at Farmbot and among the 38% of female staff — much higher than the average of 32% in agriculture and 13% in tech — told iTWire in response to queries that more than 6000 monitors had been deployed so far.
"Historically, our largest markets have been the northern cattle producing regions of Australia, given that the benefits of remote water monitoring are more pronounced within vast cattle stations," she explained.
"That said, we are noticing a shift in southern sheep producing states. Sheep are much less resilient to heat and water stress, so having real-time alerts for any issues with water is incredibly important.
"Another key growth area for us is farmers who have multiple properties – who can’t physically be in two places at once. And by the same token, we are seeing huge uptake from smaller farms where the owner may actually live and work full-time in a major city and only travel out to the farm on weekends.
"Our product development is farmer-led. So, we are talking to our customers every day, finding out what they need from us and developing solutions accordingly. I think this has been a big driver in our success in Australia."
About 40% of Farmbot's leadership team are women. It sells an IoT-based solution that can monitor and report on-farm water resources - dams, tanks and troughs. It provides real-time reporting on water trends, consumption and demand and can send this data to a mobile or desktop device.
Barakat, who has been working in agritech firms for five years and a Farmbot product manager for 18 months, said her focus was on Farmbot's software-as-a-service platform called MyFarmbot.
"Our platform communicates with Farmbot's range of IoT devices that are set up at water points on a farm. Our devices provide customers with the ability to manage and monitor water assets 24/7 with near real-time alerts that notify them when something is wrong," she said.
"When developing the MyFarmbot platform, my job is to scope out which features to build that will solve customers' problems. I work closely with the research and development team to research and design solutions that fit our customers' needs.
"This usually starts with customer interviews and surveys to understand operational pain points that we can improve on. From there, we design the final solution and build in the software.
"Depending on the complexity of the feature, it can take a couple of days to months to build something. We thoroughly test before releasing any new feature to our customers."
Barakat said she worked with a team of five software engineers and one product designer, and also co-operated with the wider team - production, R&D and firmware engineers - to ensure hardware and software worked well together.
"Extending from my team, Farmbot also has a team of 12 engineers, three full-time and nine part-time, who work in manufacturing," she said. "They are the operation room, and in charge of producing and testing all products.
"Every Farmbot Monitor is produced and tested in our head office in Sydney before it is sold to the end user."
She said the product could be installed easily. "Any farmer with a drill can easily install the system on their own and have it connected via cellular connectivity or satellite within 15 minutes of delivery of the unit. That means there are no installation costs."
Barakat has no background in agriculture but has not found this to be an obstacle to working in an agritech firm. "I'm not actually from an agriculture background but I studied and have always worked in the agriculture space," she said.
"I did a Bachelor of Food Science and Agribusiness at the University of Sydney and previously worked at AgriDigital, an agritech company that specialises in software solutions for the grains supply chains, before coming on board with Farmbot a year and a half ago."