AgTech Startup Leaf is Helping Farmers Brace for Unexpected Rainfall After Record Year

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

green leaf drawing and rolling farm lands
Evan Xie

At least 50,000 acres in the state of California are estimated to be underwater after a record-breaking year of rainfall. So far this year, California has received nearly 29 inches of rain, with the bulk being dumped on its central and southern coasts. Farmers are already warning that the price of dairy, tomatoes and other vegetables will rise as the weather prevents them from re-seeding their fields.

While no current technology can prevent weather disasters, Leaf Agriculture, a Los Angeles-based startup that launched in 2018, wants to help farmers better manage their properties by leveraging data.


Right now, farmers typically track machine data, field boundaries, weather data, satellite or drone field imagery separately which makes it difficult to concisely view and manage a holistic picture of their farm’s data. Leaf, on the other hand, makes an API that can consolidate all these various feeds into one app.

The agtech company doesn’t sell its software directly to farmers. Instead, Leaf is selling its API to companies that have existing architecture and software that farmers use. Some examples include tractor maker John Deere, chemical and feed maker Wilbur-Ellis, or supplier GrowMark. These companies then offer Leaf’s platform as a way to integrate and better use their existing data.

“70% of acres in the United States have farmer-owned data, from machines, precision soil tests, [and] financial accounting,” explained Leaf CEO Bailey Stockdale. He noted that some of that data is already digitized, but the sheer volume of it and lack of a way to consolidate all these different feeds into one platform, causes farmers to under-utilize it.

And some farmers, especially those who’ve been farming their entire careers, are hesitant to embrace technology. “It's changing very quickly, but it's coming from a very low digital adoption place in 2023… to the point where it’s still a lot of handwritten records,” Stockdale said.

Elizabeth Fastiggi, Amazon web Services’ head of worldwide business development for agriculture, told dot.LA, “90% of what we build here at AWS is based on what customers tell us really matters to them.” Fastiggi said Amazon hasn’t invested in Leaf but wanted to begin selling its tools because “partners like Leaf are also helping our customers by building incredible applications to help farmers be more efficient, and more productive.”

Fastiggi added, “What we've done with Leaf, specifically, is a really important part of this next phase, which is helping the industry manage these very heterogeneous data types and addressing what we call interoperability.”

One aspect ripe for digitization is insurance claims. With the recent flooding in particular, the ability to get a fast return for damaged crops is key to a farmer’s ability to re-plant and start making money again. But the process of verifying damage is time-consuming, Stockdale noted. Crop insurance payouts were already on the rise because of climate change and global warming, but the storms this year are already costing California billions. AccuWeather recently estimated the total damage from storms so far this year could cost as much as $42 billion.

“Insurance companies, to validate claims, drive pickup trucks out to the fields and count how many plants fell down for every single claim,” Stockdale said. “People are screenshotting and printing out PDF reports and sending them to farm owners.”

Stockdale did add that “a lot of these insurance companies are starting to modernize as well,” and said he was optimistic that the trend of “more companies now embracing digital [tools]” to support farmers would continue. “I really want to push agriculture as far into the future as possible,” he said.

Regulation is also driving tech adoption among agriculture workers in the state. “You have to record which products you applied [and when], what you planted, when it was planted, [and] what the yield was, “ Stockdale said. “That alone is pushing many of these farmers to adopt digital technology because otherwise the burden of compliance is impossible.”

That said, most farmworkers are older. Producers aged 35 and younger only account for about 9% of farmers, and they’re the demographic most likely to quickly adopt digital tools. Which is to say, getting farmers onboard with this new technology won’t be easy. But Stockdale said he’s optimistic more farmers will embrace the technology as they try to cope with increasingly unpredictable weather and rising costs.

Furthermore, he noted that many family farmers are eager to maximize their profits to avoid selling, and will use technology to do so. “The generation of farmers today, the average age is 70,” Stockdale said. “There’s this succession planning component on everyone’s mind: ‘how do we keep this in the family, how do we continue in operation without having to sell to a big corporate farm?’”

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🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
Image Source: Tinder

🔦 Spotlight

Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

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  • Penguin Random House agreed to acquire comic book publisher Boom! Studios from backers like Walt Disney Co. - learn more

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.


Techstars Los Angeles

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

Location: Culver City

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


Grid110

Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

Location: DTLA

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: Casetify, Flavors From Afar


Idealab

Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

Location: Pasadena

Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor


Plug In South LA

Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

Notable Past Companies: ChargerHelp, Peadbo


Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

Location: West Hollywood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect


MedTech Innovator

MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

Location: Westwood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

Notable Past Companies: Zeto, Genetesis


KidsX

The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

Location: East Hollywood

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, early stage

Focus: Pediatric Health Care Innovation

Notable Past Companies: Smileyscope, Zocalo Health


Disney Accelerator

Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

Location: Burbank

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Technology and entertainment

Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP


Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Aerospace

Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space



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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

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Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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