As a child, Shunsuke Tsuboi, the founder and CEO of SAgri, was fascinated by space. “I kept on talking about my passion for the space industry throughout my teenage years.” The feedback from adults was generally discouraging and he was chided off as being unrealistic. “I noticed my friends had changed their dreams to sound realistic,” he recalls.
In 2016, as a sophomore in college, he started a space education company along with his peers to teach children about space and the value of sharing their dreams with others. The workshops often involved outdoor activities such as rocket launch experiments or night sky observation. They traveled to rural areas where agriculture was a critical part of the local economy. Through his interactions with the local farmers, Shunsuke learned why the current AgriTech solutions were failing them and eventually came up with a solution. Consequently, SAgri was established in 2018.
“The strength of SAgri’s business lies in the database,” Shunsuke goes on to explain. “We combine farmland information such as cultivated area, soil quality, and suitable crops with land parcel data obtained from satellites. This data, when processed with AI, makes it possible to visualize individual farmland indicators, suggesting that X grows well in this farmland, or that with Y it will result in high yields. Subsequently, a smartphone app called Sagri manages each farmer’s daily labor and provides information that may affect the growth of crops: when to sow, how much and often to use fertilizer, occasional typhoons and droughts risks, etc.”
While his team was still struggling to find a product-market fit in Japan, Shunsuke flew to India for three months and visited local farmers. Faced with the cruel reality of economic disparity and the fact that children could not afford to dream, but had to drop out of school to help their families on the farms to make ends meet, he decided to expand his startup to India. “Building a system to get farmers out of poverty to become financially independent was the first step for our business in India.”
SAgri partnered with Indian government agencies, agricultural institutions, and foreign financial institutions. They developed a micro-finance platform, which facilitates credit checks, conducted by financial institutions. Farmlands are evaluated and harvests are predicted based on soil quality and satellite data analyses. Since then, the projects in India have been successfully growing.
At the end of the interview, Shunsuke shared his vision for the future of the company. “Of course, sales and profit are important, but for me, solving social issues comes before all else. SAgri can be helpful not only in Japan and India but also in the agricultural sector in many countries, including Asia and Africa. The world’s agricultural population is said to be 2.5 billion, so there is still so much we can do.”
“That being said,” he added with a smile on his face, “when things are scaled and solidified, I may give the business over to someone else. Personally, time with my family is a priority and most importantly, I want to keep following my dreams throughout my life.”