Around 168 million tonnes of stored grain go to waste every year. That’s enough to feed 350 million people. In silo grain spoilage is a huge problem costing the industry $24 billion a year. And it’s not just the wastage that’s the problem. It’s the health and safety aspect for farmers as well.
“Farmers going into silos when the grain is off can cause some big health issues, so having these realisations of wastage and health and safety issues is what really inspired me into action and create Grain Crawler,” said Paul.
Meet the founder Paul Amezcua. They are one of the start-ups taking part in our three-month Sprout 2022 Accelerator in the Cohort IX intake.
Grain Crawler, aptly named for how it functions, is a robotic in-silo sensory device capable of navigating through harvested grain mass to map storage conditions to help reduce grain spoilage.
Sole founder Paul said that grain storage conditions are a segment of the whole value chain that wasn’t being addressed very well.
“Farmers go through all the work to grow good quality crops at optimum yields, then that’s stored, and a big portion of it is going to waste since in-silo conditions aren’t being looked after. While it is being addressed, I saw there was room for improvement and innovation in this space,” said Paul.
Doing the math on the wastage figures and how many people that could feed was Paul’s big ‘aha’ moment where he decided to put his experience in the ag-tech industry to use on something that could be of real value for farmers. He’s had a fair few challenges to get to where he is now, the first being bringing his vision to life.'
“I had these sketches of what I had in my head, and it was figuring out how do I turn this into a prototype. Figuring out the positioning technology was another big hurdle as some constraints existed.”
Standard GPS positioning doesn’t work in tin silos, so Paul spent a long time investigating other positioning technologies to figure out what was going to work best for his idea. While the perfectionist in him wants to get the product just right, he’s become aware during his journey of the need to get a product out there and make improvements along the way.
“There are people out there waiting for this piece of technology to start using it, so I’ve had to realise that I just need to get a device out there that’s intuitive and shows farmers the value it can bring. Technology and devices can always be changed and upgraded as time goes on,. You’ll never get it perfect first go.”
As a one-man band, it would be easy for Paul to get suckered into feelings of doubt, but he said he has been able to combat this by remaining grateful that he had the opportunity to work on this business in the first place.
“To have the time and not having my attention pulled by a 9-5 job is such a wonderful position to be in. I get to spend my time working on something that I really believe could create change for lots of people.”
He’s working hard at expanding his networks and aligning himself with mentors and fellow entrepreneurs to help him succeed in the next stages of his journey. Sprout is playing a big role in facilitating this.
“The industry-specific nature of Sprout initially attracted me to the accelerator programme but the peer support aspect excites me. Mixing with like-minded people and drawing off everyone's experiences.”
Paul's aspirations for Grain Crawler are as big as the savings he could help make in the industry. By year five, he aims to be turning over $22 million a year but, more importantly, playing a role in decreasing wastage, whilst improving worker health and safety.