Gabriel Coch is a kind, intelligent man with an entrepreneurial spirit who sold his first business in 2000. He was born in Italy, raised in Colombia and began his journey in the States when he attended an American university on a tennis scholarship where he studied design science and was inspired by visionaries like Buckminster Fuller. This sparked a lifelong interest in innovations that eventually led to computer mapping and its applications in the real world. We shared an exploratory and insightful conversation about his current business, AgroPatterns, an IoT solution that applies industrial design principles to the growing of perishables like flowers and food and how it can help solve major real-world issues.
Q: What does Agro Patterns do in a nutshell?
A: AgroPatterns is a software as a service (SaaS) solution that helps farm growers and specifically farmers that grow crops in greenhouses manage the health of their plants and have a better grasp on how to forecast the maturity of their products.
A basic way to explain it is using the example of flower growers. Growers can’t sell flowers that haven’t bloomed, but time of bloom isn’t a simple thing to predict so there’s uncertainty for both the producers and buyers of flowers. There are many cycles and nuances associated with both plant health and forecasting, and with perishables timing is everything and the idea is that you can use machine manufacturing principles to monitor data points, improve process efficiency and yield a better quality product.
Q: What inspired you to start this company?
A: The study of urban and regional planning has been a passion of mine. A lot of money goes into the transportation of perishables. We also have “food deserts,” or areas with no real access to good food, in our cities. Because of this and other things, we may have a revolution in finding ways to grow food closer to home and controlled environments are essential to pull that off.
Plus, climate change is real. Climate change affects agriculture in huge ways. It’s time to think about growing food and perishables in controlled environments.
Another application of our product, which was completely unexpected is food safety. When it comes to fixing the issue of food insecurity and meeting food demand, providing enough food is certainly important. But just as important is keeping that food safe from pathogens and rot.
Q: What’s your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: For me it’s the creative process – thinking deeply about problems and trying to sort them out. Problem solving is fun for me. I also appreciate that I don’t have to rely on someone else to make decisions that define the course of my path. There’s huge benefits to that. For instance, I tend to take my time thinking about a specific issue until the answer comes to me. Because I work for myself, I have the freedom to think thoroughly and deeply. Sometimes when you work for someone else, you’re not afforded that.
Q: Do you have any mentors or role models who have inspired you while you have been building your business?
A: My father has always been a huge influence on me. He was considering important issues like reducing carbon emissions in Colombia as early as the 1970’s. And he was always tinkering. He had a very old M.G. car and turned it into a gas car in order to reduce emissions.
I also feel very strongly about how important RAP has been for us, particularly in this age of so much uncertainty. It’s a challenging time. I have two kids and I question what their futures will look like. But RIoT has been this amazing glue. I’ve met people with whom I have become friends and shared ideas and it has really helped. Tom and Rachael are absolutely amazing as leaders – exceptionally diligent and helpful.
Q: Any advice for entrepreneurs?
A: Remember that, if you have passion for something, then your probability of success is higher but not guaranteed. There is more that needs to be done.
I think reading and studying are important. Listening is important. Learning communication skills is important. Entrepreneurs are not always the best at communicating or taking constructive criticism. They really like doing things their way and that attitude can inhibit growth, though it can also lead to real breakthroughs; it’s important to balance both.