Agriculture data company aWhere moves HQ to Broomfield

Jan 20, 2015

By Megan Quinn
Staff Writer

Somewhere in Ghana, farmers are predicting rainfall and other factors to plan their crops for the year.

Somewhere in Iowa, farmers are doing the same.

Somewhere in Broomfield, a company is using mountains of data in an effort to help.

Agricultural data and analytics firm aWhere, which tracks 1 billion data points a day to help people in the agricultural industry more efficiently use resources, has moved to Broomfield. The company, which started in 1999 and grew rapidly in 2014, expects to hire around 26 new people in Broomfield over the next three years.

The company collects and organizes public and private data about factors such as weather, rainfall and soil quality. The company then uses software to group customized sets of data and sends it to customers throughout regions as diverse as Africa, Southeast Asia and the United States.

That data helps users access hyper-local weather forecasts for specific squares of farmland, or helps guide larger-scale commercial companies to streamline business and agricultural decisions.

Weather is just one piece of the agricultural equation, said Tarah Speck, a communications specialist for aWhere. The company also collects data in an effort to predict which pests might try to take advantage of a juicy crop, predict the probability of drought or flooding, or help commercial growers more efficiently schedule labor for when crops are ready to be harvested, she said.

The company also aims to help non-government organizations assess their agricultural development and food security efforts by finding and matching global data that relates to their projects, she said.

"It's scalable from the field level all the way to the policy level," she said.

One company aWhere works with is Boulder-based Agribotix, which uses drones to scout corn fields to assess nitrogen and fetilizer levels that help crops grow, said Jim Pollock, aWhere's vice president of product strategy.

The company's data gives information such as weather and wind speed, which can affect the drone's flight.

In addition to its Broomfield office, aWhere has a data center in Texas and an engineering office in North Carolina.

Between the three offices, aWhere has 40 employees, but is poised to hire more, Speck said.

It brought 17 jobs to Broomfield when it moved its headquarters this month. The Broomfield location plans to hire six more people this year, and an additional 20 people in the next three years.

Its former headquarters were in Wheat Ridge, but it was cramped because of the company's expansion, Speck said. It now occupies 5,324 square feet on West Midway Boulevard, according to Broomfield's building division.

The new Broomfield office offers more elbow room and is closer to current employees' homes. Broomfield also is an ideal location for growth, because it is close to both Denver and Boulder, which will make it easier to draw new employees willing to commute from those two cities, Speck said.

Broomfield also is home to tech companies and other growing businesses along the U.S. 36 corridor, she said.

"Broomfield is just a better location to attract great talent," she said.

Broomfield has been known to offer tax incentives for technology and health companies to move to Broomfield along U.S. 36, but aWhere is not getting a tax incentive for its move, according to the Broomfield City Manager's Office.

The company has sights beyond Broomfield's borders, too. It opened an office in Malaysia and is working to hire a general manager.

Speck said aWhere grew rapidly in 2014, in part because of a $7 million investment from Elixir Capital, a private equity fund manager based in Silicon Valley, and AgFunder, a crowdfunding site for agricultural efforts.

The funding will help farmers in some developing countries where technology is not as readily available as places such as the United States, Abrar Hussain, managing director of Elixir Capital, stated in a news release.

Analytics will help farmers better plan and manage their crops in the midst of unpredictable weather or climate change issues, he stated.

The new data will help "increase yield, efficiently allocate resources and significantly lower the industry's environmental impact," he stated.

Megan Quinn: 303-410-2649, quinnm@broomfieldenterprise.com or twitter.com/MeganQuinn2