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Cultivating innovation: a journey into the AgriTech landscape with Ilia Iordanov

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Bianca Iulia Simion

· 3 min read
Cultivating innovation: a journey into the AgriTech landscape with Ilia Iordanov
Ilia Iordanov, CEO & Co-Founder of ONDO

Ilia Iordanov, a seasoned professional in the software development industry since 2000, is the CEO and Co-Founder of ONDO Smart Farming Solutions, a pioneering company in the realm of smart agriculture.

ONDO stands as a comprehensive, cloud-based automated system for precise irrigation, fertigation, and climate control across diverse crops. The platform encompasses both hardware and software components, providing farmers with a streamlined approach to enhance productivity and resource efficiency.

Ilia's journey includes roles as a Senior Software Engineer, CEO, and Co-Founder in various tech ventures. With a Master's degree in Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Engineering, coupled with certifications in software engineering and acting, Ilia brings a diverse skill set to the helm of ONDO.

What experiences led to founding ONDO, and how do your past ventures shape your approach to smart farming technology?

ONDO's team brings together software specialists with agricultural experts, working collaboratively to develop cutting-edge automation solutions for irrigation, fertigation, and climate control. Over the past two decades, our experience founding companies like IndigoVerge and HutGrip has been instrumental in refining our software and hardware development skills. Additionally, the decade-long experience of our CPO, Ivaylo Enev, and Chief Agronomist, Svilen Mladenov, in installing and supporting irrigation systems in the CEE region, while working for the largest Israeli company in drip irrigation and automation, has deepened our understanding of agricultural needs. The synergy of our expertise in both the software and farming industries shapes our approach to creating essential technology for farmers. Over the years, we've been privileged to partner with esteemed organizations like Siemens, Telerik, Honeywell, and others, offering a wide variety of services in both software and hardware domains.

How does ONDO plan to influence the future of precision agriculture, particularly in addressing water scarcity and energy conservation issues?

Precision agriculture has been a growing trend for years, yet existing market solutions are often either comprehensive but costly (high CAPEX), making them unaffordable for small and mid-sized farms, or cheap yet limited in functionality. This gap has led to less than 10% of farms adopting automation solutions. ONDO revolutionizes this landscape by lowering entry barriers and investment requirements for farmers, leveraging the latest in software and hardware technologies. Over the past two years, in addition to our traditional business model, we’ve introduced a flexible subscription-only business model. This approach has quickly become the preferred choice for 90% of our new customers, making our technology more accessible and fostering broader adoption. As a result, the wider embrace of automation will lead to significant savings in water and energy.

Moreover, ONDO stands out in its precise management of fertigation, greatly reducing environmental contamination. This aspect will be further enhanced with the upcoming release of ONDO AI-Prime. Utilizing advanced AI, it will detect deficiencies in plants' micro and macro elements and intelligently adjust fertigation programs accordingly, ensuring optimized nutrient delivery and environmental protection.

In the realm of smart farming, what metrics matter most?

In the realm of smart farming, accurate metrics are essential for enhancing agricultural processes and sustainability. ONDO stands out by ensuring up to a 30% reduction in water usage, leading to substantial savings for farmers. Furthermore, ONDO's solutions can reduce the reliance on human labor by as much as 30%. By optimizing the efficiency of inputs, ONDO achieves up to a 20% reduction in fertilizer use, thereby minimizing waste and lessening environmental impact. Beyond conserving resources, ONDO also boosts crop yields by up to 20%, improving both taste and preservation quality. In terms of financial impact, ONDO can increase profit margins by up to 30%.

Opting for ONDO provides farmers not only with significant resource savings but also a substantial boost in profitability. This approach allows farmers to not just reduce costs but also to maximize their overall earnings from their cultivation efforts. With ONDO, farmers are empowered to scale their operations effectively.

Given the evolving landscape of sustainable agriculture, how does ONDO stay ahead of trends, and what innovations do you anticipate in smart farming technology?

The landscape of sustainable agriculture is evolving under the influence of several key factors:

  • Business Drivers: This includes the need for greater efficiency and productivity, a scarcity of qualified labor, and rising costs of fertilizers and energy resources.
  • Social Drivers: There's a growing societal preference for locally sourced, organic, and clean food.
  • Public Policy Drivers: Globally, there's an emphasis on reducing the use of fertilizers, water, and pesticides, as highlighted by initiatives like the EU's Green Deal.
  • Environmental Drivers: Adapting to climate change and shifting weather patterns is increasingly urgent.

Thanks to these factors solutions like ONDO are not just a luxury but a necessity for survival in the agricultural sector. These elements are also pivotal in guiding our innovation. We focus on developing solutions that address the current needs of farmers, rather than those from 10-15 years ago. This means innovation across multiple domains, including technology, marketing, and business models. Today, understanding the psychological perspective of farmers is just as important as understanding their business objectives.

This understanding is the driving force behind ONDO AI-Prime – an innovation truly inspired by our customers' actual needs.

What is the future roadmap of ONDO?

In the next two years, ONDO's roadmap is centered on advancing innovation with the development of ONDO AI-Prime. This next-level automation system utilizes a feedback loop from plants through camera images, employing artificial neural networks to analyze these images and identify deficiencies in micro and macro elements. As an integral part of the ONDO automation platform, AI-Prime can automatically adjust irrigation and fertigation schedules, ensuring optimal water and nutrient delivery to the plants. This innovation not only conserves resources but also facilitates the use of cost-effective straight fertilizers, detects early issues without visible signs, and reduces the frequency and cost of agronomist visits.

Additionally, to further enhance ONDO’s value to farmers, we plan to integrate satellite imagery, diverse sensors, and third-party solutions like pest traps and disease models. We aim to evolve into a more autonomous decision-making system, significantly boosting efficiency in farming practices.

What challenges do you see ahead for ONDO?

While ONDO has established a strong presence in the Bulgarian, North Macedonian, and South African markets, our ambitions are geared towards further expansion, including into the EU, South America, and North America. From the outset, ONDO was envisioned as a global entity, aspiring to become synonymous with farm automation for farmers worldwide. Our primary challenge is scaling our sales operations into new geographical regions and countries.

To achieve this, we have devoted considerable effort to formulating a scaling strategy. This involves building a robust network of Value-Added Resellers (VARs) supported by local ONDO business development managers.

How do you keep your talent close? Do you have any employee stock options plan in place or in mind?

The ONDO team comprises 17 highly qualified professionals specializing in software and hardware R&D, product development, business development, sales, installation, and support. This diverse team, including agronomists and scientists, is deeply involved in sales, customer support, and crucially, in agronomic services and product development.

A significant strength of our team is the core of seasoned professionals who have a long history of collaboration. Key members such as Ivan Dragoev, Ilia Iordanov, Svetla Markova, and Pencho Popadiyn have worked together for over 15 years. The majority of our team members have been collaborating for more than 4 years, further enhancing our collective expertise.

To support continuous professional growth, each team member follows a personalized development plan. Recognizing their contributions, we have allocated an enthusiastic 10% of all shares for our Employee Stock Option Program (ESOP), reflecting our commitment to employee investment and shared success.

What exit scenarios do you have in mind for ONDO?

Ondo is strategically positioning itself to maximize growth and value, setting the stage for potential strategic acquisitions or mergers within the next 5-7 years.

Why should investors consider joining this opportunity?

Here are 6 reasons to join the opportunity to invest in ONDO:

  1. Disruptive innovation – ONDO automation + ONDO AI-Prime have the potential to disrupt the agricultural market.
  2. Proven technology - evident real savings (water, fertilizers, human labor, farmers' time), and profitable farmers with growth on the horizon.
  3. Great product – developed with the farmers in mind, easy to learn and use, available 24/7.
  4. Product market/fit - more than 120 satisfied customers (<2% churn in four years)
  5. Experienced team – covering all necessary expertise.
  6. Global trends - the agriculture industry is undergoing a digital transformation. The investment offers the potential for both financial success and positive environmental impact.

Explore the opportunity in SeedBlink.

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