understory (copy)

Andrew Piotrzkowski of Understory sets up the Madison startup's weather data monitor on the roof of the 316 Building, 316 W. Washington Ave., in this photo from 2016. Understory's weather stations are installed in five U.S. metro areas and now in two cities in Argentina, as well.

Farmers in Argentina will have a better idea when to irrigate and when to harvest their corn and soybeans thanks to a Madison startup.

Understory says it has 30 weather stations in growing areas around Buenos Aires and Córdoba and will be expanding operations throughout Argentina, as part of a collaboration with Monsanto, the global agriculture company with headquarters in St. Louis. 

Understory's small weather stations provide data on weather conditions, such as rainfall, hail, temperature, and humidity, and can recognize where plants are in their life cycle to determine when they are ready to be picked.

Giovanni Piccinni, head of global supply chain field optimization for Monsanto, said that is especially important in areas where local weather information is not accurate. 

"With localized accurate data, growers can streamline operational challenges and boost economic outcomes. We anticipate this being an important and valuable partnership," Piccinni said.

Alex Kubicek, CEO and co-founder of Understory, said its weather stations are rugged and maintenance-free and can be set up virtually anywhere.

"Argentina is an agricultural giant that produces 22 percent of the world's soybeans, yet many growers there -- and around the world -- still lack data insights due to the remote, harsh farming conditions," Kubicek said. "Our collaboration with Monsanto promises to deliver daily operational insights to farmers around the world to yield better, healthier crops."

Understory and Monsanto collaborated on a joint project in Hawaii over the past year, refining weather data for use in growing operations on a day-to-day basis. "Our weather stations vastly outperformed all other weather data sources," Kubicek said.

The company, founded in 2012, has 15 employees and is a graduate of the gener8tor accelerator. Kubicek said the Argentina project will not expand staff but Understory plans to double the size of the company over the next year.

Its weather monitoring stations are installed in Dallas/Fort Worth; Houston; Denver; St. Louis; and Kansas City, as well as a few locations in Wisconsin. Most of its analytics, up to now, have been provided to insurance companies, but Understory says it plans to work with "additional agricultural partners" in the near future.

"Understory is currently examining additional locations for international expansion. Our weather stations can be deployed anywhere on the planet and we are prioritizing our many opportunities," Kubicek said.

Monsanto has been an investor since 2016.

Contact Judy Newman at jdnewman@madison.com with tips and story suggestions.


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