This North Miami startup is bringing farming into the 21st century
Envonics, which moved from Pittsburgh, develops hardware and software products to digitize agriculture production
Agriculture might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about South Florida. But it’s a big business: Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward counties cumulatively sold $1.8 billion worth of agriculture products in 2019 alone. Not to mention that agriculture has a tangible effect on the lives of all South Floridians.
Lior Barhai, co-founder and CEO of Envonics, understands the importance of agriculture. Alongside co-founder Kumar Nikkhil Raj Agrawal and CFO Luke Deasy, Barhai is developing technology to make agricultural production more efficient and sustainable.
Barhai and Agrawal met while studying mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. The pair worked on a senior year capstone project that involved developing a four-wheeled robot that takes care of home gardens. That project would eventually become Envonics. “We graduated and realized that [AgTech] is an emerging field,” Barhai told Refresh Miami.
“It was such a natural progression for me and Kumar to jump into agriculture,” said Barhai, a native Miamian whose parents immigrated from Israel. “Both our fathers – mine in Israel and Kumar’s in India – were raised on farms. I guess it was in our blood, and we didn’t know it until then.”
Envonics is developing hardware and software products to digitize farming, with an initial focus on controlled-environment agriculture (think greenhouses). The team started with the very basics: “we grew some kale in a tent in our apartment,” recalled Barhai. “That experience not only brought us together, but it really taught us about what the growing process is and why it’s important.”
Barhai explained that plants need 15 different nutrients to grow properly. However, Barhai asserted that the low-tech systems most farmers use to track their crops’ growth are outdated. He likened this approach to trying to eat a balanced diet but only seeing calorie counts: “you’d be just guessing.”
To solve this problem, Envonics has developed a system that monitors nutrients in real time. “We are giving farmers information about their plants’ growth that they’ve never seen before: data that they can actually act upon,” said Barhai.
The Envonics team works with farmers to help them leverage this data to solve any of the problems they’re facing, from reducing cost to increasing yield and improving flavor.
“Agriculture technology is a super exciting field, and one that’s been overlooked for quite some time,” said Barhai. “We have the technology resources to really create a big impact both indoors and ultimately outdoors as well.”
While the company was originally founded two years ago in Pittsburgh, the team relocated to South Florida in mid-2020. “It’s a very exciting time for Miami. Right now a lot of people are building and recruiting here. I’m excited to see what happens and to be a part of it.”
Learn about Envonics’ products on its website.
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