Jairo Trad, founder and CEO of Kilimo

Jairo Trad, Founder and CEO of Kilimo

Jairo Trad, Founder and CEO of Kilimo

Kilimo is a data solution for irrigation management, using climate and satellite information to help farmers optimize water usage. Kilimo has raised $1.2 million in venture funding, employs 22 professionals full-time, and serves farmers across Latin America and the United States. They have three headquarters: in Chile, in Argentina, and in Memphis, Tennessee. “I spend half my time in Argentina and half my time in Memphis,” says founder and CEO Jairo Trad. “I have an office, an apartment, and friends in Memphis. I have a girlfriend in Memphis. I have a gym membership there, too — everything you need to have to live.”

Trad hails from a small town in Argentina, with a background in programming and data science. His decision to create a company in ag tech was a simple calculation, based on the fact that a significant portion of Argentina’s GDP comes from agriculture. “I was working on my thesis in grad school and came up with a good data solution,” Trad says. “The best area to put the technology was agriculture. It was a no-brainer. Latin America is going to be a powerhouse in agriculture in the next 5 to 10 years. I’m excited to look back and know we made the right decision getting into this field.”

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After going through the AgLaunch accelerator in 2017, Kilimo sold their product to their first farmer. Trad says his company benefited greatly from the farmer-centered approach of AgLaunch’s three phases. “Creating a farmer-centered strategy in innovation is the only way you’re crafting really good products,” Trad says. “You have to keep the farmer at the heart of what you do.”

Now, Trad is building a global company from Memphis. And while Memphis makes sense for an any agriculture startup for its proximity to row crops and myriad farmers, Trad says there are also untapped opportunities to leverage. “I have the duty to pursue whatever opportunity has the best return on investment,” he says. “When I go to San Francisco, it feels like every good opportunity is already taken and you’re fighting for whatever is left. In Memphis, you have a city where people are really eager for innovation and who want to provide you amazing opportunities.”

Kilimo has received an investment from Innova Memphis and remains actively involved in AgLaunch. Trad serves as a mentor for founders in AgLaunch’s programming, and believes the relationship to Innova is mutually beneficial. “Sometimes crafting global companies is the only way to create a company that provides a decent return,” Trad says. “I hope I am helping them think globally because I have to think globally. The relationship to Innova is really good. They have been instrumental.”

As for Memphis, Trad hopes to be part of a larger entrepreneurial movement in the city. “Bringing more entrepreneurs to Memphis and connecting them is something we must do. No one can do that alone,” he says. “But if you join together and connect, you have community. When you have community, you have something worth fighting for.”

Jonel Turner