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How a Canadian Startup Plans to Revolutionize Agriculture

New Brunswick’s Resson delivers customized precision solutions for clients in the agriculture sector. Utilizing recent advances in large-scale cloud-based data processing, swarm robotics, and advanced data analytics, the Resson Agricultural Management and Analytics System (RAMAS™) gives the agricultural operator analytical insights and dynamic control over the farm area.

Resson’s data-driven solution analyzes crop metrics to assess crop status and health, and offers operators the information needed to optimize agricultural operations, improve their efficiency, boost their yields, and maximize profits.

Resson is the brainchild of co-founders Peter Goggin and Rishin Behl. Launched in 2013, the company has quickly developed relationships with large food producers, most notably New Brunswick’s McCain Foods Limited. This past spring, the company was recognized by the KIRA Awards (New Brunswick’s celebration of its Knowledge Industry) as the province’s Most Promising Startup.

Opportunities NB (ONB) had a chance to speak with Peter Goggin, CEO and Co-Founder, to discuss the company’s early experiences.

ONB: Let’s start with the idea. What led to the creation of the Resson solution?

resson image 1Goggin: Rishin is the idea guy, the tech visionary of the company, while I’m more responsible for the corporate management and business development; together we’re a great team. We identified a huge need in the agriculture sector to tap into emerging technologies that have spawned from the digital age, communications, and from the military, and packaged that into a platform that can help boost production for farming.

Resson is a bioinformatics and analytics company. We integrate and analyze a lot of different data that we collect on farming. We’re essentially providing a data-driven model for agriculture. Traditionally in farming if growers think there is a disease or pest on their farm, they’re highly reactionary. They’ll spray, spray again, and spray again as required, to mitigate any losses. We tap into imagery and other sensor data to enrich the decision making process providing them with a much more targeted approach to their treatment and production of crops.

ONB: It really sounds like the time was right for a more data-driven solution for that industry.

Goggin: Yes, there are a lot of factors that have allowed for this type of platform to be possible now, including UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to collect imagery, as well as sensors on the ground that are much more affordable then they were five or ten years ago. We can now take this information and put it in a platform online. So the data processing and data relay capacity of networks and competing costs, all of those things are becoming more and more affordable. Even five years ago analyzing all of this information would have been quite expensive, but now the time is right and the technology has emerged and matured to a point where we can really get great information about farms from this type of imagery, and from sensors.

ONB: How did you and your co-founder, Rishin Behl, meet?

Goggin: Rishin and I are both University of New Brunswick graduates. We met in the a joint class spanning the Activator Program (via UNB’s International Business and Entrepreneurship Centre) and the TME Program (operated out of the J. Herbert Smith Centre). I was doing my Master’s in Business, and he was doing a Master’s in Engineering; it was a natural fit.

ONB: What was the mentor network like when you were getting started? 

Goggin: We benefited from participating in a series of accelerator programs. The first real bit of traction we received was through the Pond-Deshpande Centre at UNB. Our company was awarded a technology ignition grant which helped us with proof of concept, and with some road trips to get our ideas in front of potential partners and clients. We were then able to leverage those funds into additional investment and financing.

We also participated in two local accelerators, Planet Hatch and Launch36. The core benefits we received from them included networking and access to great mentors. One of our mentors in particular really opened a lot of doors for us; she was directly involved with securing our first major client. Those opportunities really helped refine our business materials such as our branding and positioning statements.

ONB: Speaking of major clients, Resson has seen its profile raised through its work with McCain Foods. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Goggin: Yes, we’re really thrilled to be working with McCain Foods. They’re an excellent partner, and both a Canadian and global leader in farming and agriculture. It’s a great start for us, and I feel it really validates our technology and how it can impact agriculture on a large scale.

We were able to get some great early traction such as some federal funding, and local accelerator funding. We were able to leverage this for some VC (Venture Capital) investment. Resson raised just over three million dollars last October. That came from VCs inside the province, in Nova Scotia, and also two major VCs outside of Atlantic Canada. So this has been great for us on many levels.

ONB: What were some of the most notable challenges you’ve dealt with as you established the company?

Goggin: We have such a nice story to tell. We’re using advanced leading edge technologies, but we’re applying them all to a fairly traditional sector in agriculture. There’s such a huge need for farmers to tap into tools that can help them more effectively grow their crops, what with growing populations and more uncertainty surrounding weather patterns.

There’s increasing pressure on them to produce those crops. There’s a need for companies like Resson who bring engineering, computer science, and robotics to agriculture. The challenge is telling what we think is a powerful story. How do we best communicate this story to people? Strategic partnerships with major agriculture producers like McCain are one way to get that story out. They can help tell our story, as they’ve got a much bigger voice than we do. We’re a modest company and we’re doing good work, but we need that message out there.

ONB: Are there any key pieces of wisdom you’d like to offer to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Goggin: Always ask for advice. There are people here who are accomplishing things that you’re trying to accomplish as well, whether it’s generating X amount of revenue, or hiring the best staff. There are success stories in the province and those people have learned a lot of lessons themselves. The great thing about New Brunswick is that you likely have a connection to many of these people. There may be a degree or two of separation, but by doing the legwork and attending events, those networking opportunities are there. You just need to get your face out there, knock on doors, and ask for meetings. A lot of people are out there looking to help, especially fellow New Brunswickers.

We’ve had a lot of people—executives, presidents of academic institutions, heads of government bodies—giving us some of their time and expertise along the way. It’s helped us enormously, and I’m not sure how much of that you can get in some of the bigger city centres. There’s so much more demand and people are much busier. Here in New Brunswick, if you seek out the advice you need it can lead some great opportunities.

ONB: Congratulations again on the 2015 KIRA Award for Most Promising Startup. Tell us about that experience.

Goggin: Thank you! That was a great experience for us. We’re always working so hard, with our heads down in our little bubble. It was nice to take a moment and reflect on the success we’ve seen already.

We’re looking to build something major, and it’s nice to see that we can build it here in New Brunswick. We’re working with global leaders in agriculture and bringing leading technology to that sector. It’s a great story to tell and we’re an organization to watch out for.

ONB: Absolutely. Let’s end with with a quick note on ONB’s role with Resson. 

Goggin: ONB is a big supporter of a lot of those accelerator programs, and a lot of resources were made available to us through those. Even more so, we’ve made great contacts that have helped facilitate program delivery, so we’ve tapped into the Export Development program, as well as the former NB Growth Program for some of our non-technical positions. We’ve found a very collaborative atmosphere at ONB.

[Update: June 2016 – Resson announces $14 million CAD in funding from McCain Foods and Monsanto Growth Ventures.]

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Images via Resson.