Photo by Eugene Tanner/PBN

Photo by Eugene Tanner/PBN

Smart Yields was a finalist in the ‘Startup’ category of the new ‘Titans of Technology’ recognition program launched by Pacific Business News.

The ‘Titans of Technology’ were selected by the PBN leadership team from among nominees submitted online.

In addition to the ‘Startup’ category, which featured Smart Yields and CEO Vincent Kimura, the ‘Titans of Technology’ program also featured ‘Leaders’ and ‘Company’ categories as well as a ‘Hall of Fame’ inductee.

PBN says the Startup category is for the “youngest, most entrepreneurial tech companies just getting off the ground.” Smart Yields was founded in 2016.

The ‘Startup’ category finalists can be found online here. The Q&A with Kimura is republished below.

Growing up, who was your tech idol and why?

Warren Buffett and his son, Howard Buffett, because his focus on family and the long tail of company growth. Also, he’s been able to transition to support rural farming communities — his book, “40 Chances,” is so spot on.

What was the inspiration for your product or app?

I worked as an Asia-Pacific accounts manager at KPMG, which taught me about knowledge management and transfer. That’s what Smart Yields is all about – helping small- and mid-size farmers collect and use shared data for the benefit of the region. With this data, they can more confidently predict and tackle challenges, and strengthen relationships with other farmers.

What was your biggest success? How did you achieve it?

We recently expanded on a large-scale pilot program launched with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union in Colorado last year to help farmers monitor frost conditions – particularly late frost, which can be difficult to predict and detrimental to the harvest. We’ve saved farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars in crops and helped them improve the efficiency, accuracy and cost of monitoring hundreds of acres at a time.

These are farmers who were too small to be served by “big-ag” data solutions, so they were falling through the cracks. We’ve been able to work closely with them to create tailored and affordable solutions, and then replicate that success with neighboring farms. Now we are covering more than 1 million acres in Colorado, so each day we are building on that data to make the information we provide to farmers even better.

What has been your biggest challenge since founding the startup?

We are working to change an entire culture around agriculture and data. There are many people with various solutions to pressing challenges such as an overall decline in farms. How do we get everyone to the table – private entities, academic institutions, public and nonprofit organizations, legislators and others – to move forward in a coordinated way?

We need data to understand where we are in terms of farms, production, safety, and crop conditions. In Hawaii, we’ve been using the same questionable USDA data for years to help guide our decisions. Let’s agree to start collecting current data from our farmers, then use that to inform real solutions. Hawaii has the potential to be a tiny-yet-mighty technological innovator in agriculture, like the Dutch, who are now a global leader in this sector.

As your company grows, do you foresee staying in Hawaii?

I trace my farming roots in Hawaii back to my grandfather, who moved to Kauai from Japan to work the sugarcane fields. I was born in Honolulu and see great potential in the company staying here. Smart Yields now has a global footprint in Europe and Asia that we are looking to expand through our Centers of Excellence model. We have also had great success serving markets across the U.S., from fruit growers in Colorado to indoor mushroom farming in Pennsylvania.

App you can’t live without:

Either Google Maps or Text/SMS apps. I use these both religiously. They are the foundation for several of our tools for Smart Yields.