TerrAvion Brings Big Data to New Heights

As the leading aerial imaging company for farmers and agronomists, TerrAvion is literally bringing big data to new heights. Each week, TerrAvion planes take to the skies to collect color imagery, infrared, NDVI, and thermal imaging data for farmers around the country. That imagery is delivered overnight to farmers to give them an up-to-date understanding of plant health and inform them on ways to improve efficiency in their fields.

With millions of acres of farmland to analyze and a fleet of planes and pilots to manage, TerrAvion’s entire business is built on properly managing, analyzing, and visualizing its data. To ensure they can always quickly and easily drill down on their data, TerrAvion turned to Sisense for Cloud Data Teams as their solution for an end-to-end analytics platform.

Data Drives the Business Model

William Maio, TerrAvion’s lead software engineer, wears many hats. In addition to leading the team of engineers, he has taken the lead on analytics efforts at the company and has used Sisense for Cloud Data Teams to architect dashboards that help TerrAvion’s sales team understand flight plans, sales performance and tracking of new orders. He says collecting and sharing insights on data is absolutely crucial to the company’s business model.

“We align our pricing model with density. Flying over a particular region is essentially a fixed cost, so as we add more customers in a given county, that becomes profit for us without spending more to acquire the imagery,” said Maio. “So we need data to help focus our efforts on the regions where our customers are concentrated – that makes a big difference in terms of profitability for the company.”

Sisense for Cloud Data Teams helps them by bringing data sources together to provide a real-time look at where customers are located – today, mostly in the midwest, Washington state and Florida – and how they can adjust flight plans to maximize profits. Building that same interface from scratch, Maio says, would probably require the work of three full-time engineers.

“We could presumably build that functionality with our internal tools, but it’d be a laborious process. Or we could download data as a CSV and analyze it, but that’s nowhere close to scalable,” said Maio. “With Sisense for Cloud Data Teams, within an hour we can go in, create SQL queries and grab the exact geometry we need directly.”

With Sisense for Cloud Data Teams on board, Maio’s team is exposing valuable data to the whole company. While only a handful of data professionals are managing the data sources, everyone from operations, sales, management and engineering are viewing the dashboards on a daily basis to inform their decisions.

“The bread and butter of Sisense for Cloud Data Teams is that it doesn’t take much time at all to go from ‘I have a data question’ to ‘this is the answer,’” said Maio.

Shareable, Simple, Smooth

Each time a farmer makes an order from TerrAvion, the geometry of where its planes need to fly changes for the following week, and each new order makes an impact on its density pricing for that region. That means TerrAvion needs to be agile in its process and ensure its data is always completely up-to-date.

In one recent case, a customer asked why their ordered amount of acres was 4,000 instead of the expected 5,000. By examining the order data in Sisense for Cloud Data Teams, Maio was able to immediately identify the additional 1,000 acres that fell into a different county where they weren’t planning to fly, then quickly remedy the situation. Within minutes, Maio had a shareable dashboard with updated information to pass those details directly along to the customer.

“We need to make sure that our geometry is just right and that we get them the correct acreage numbers and pricing as soon as possible,” said Maio. “Having all of our operations in one place within Sisense for Cloud Data Teams ensures that everything is running smoothly through the pipeline and nothing is ever falling through the cracks.”

Like many Sisense for Cloud Data Teams customers, TerrAvion embeds its dashboards directly in their website to show its potential customers where they fly. Maio’s team also uses embedding to show its flight providers statuses of each flight, to see how many counties have been covered and how many remain.

“This data isn’t just for me and my team to understand,” said Maio. “We need to share it with those outside our organization in a way that they can easily take action on. That all comes together nicely with visualizations from Sisense for Cloud Data Teams.”

“This data isn’t just for me and my team to understand. We need to share it with those outside our organization in a way that they can easily take action on. That all comes together nicely with visualizations from Sisense for Cloud Data Teams.”

‍William Maio
William Maio, Director of Software Engineering, TerrAvion

This year, Maio’s team has been digging into data in Sisense for Cloud Data Teams more than ever. Maio’s job calls on him to constantly play with data and analyze trends as they change over time. He’ll often be found in Sisense for Cloud Data Teams using the line tool to make sales projections based on fluctuations in recent data, exploring data with pivot tables, or leveraging the lightning-fast response time of the Sisense support team to answer quick questions.”

“I’m tweaking and creating dashboards every day,” said Maio. “Whenever there’s a need that comes up, the first thing I do is start analyzing and visualizing data from the database using Sisense for Cloud Data Teams.”  

During a recent push to upgrade the company’s systems, Maio’s team created tons of charts to track changes and relied on “Views” within the platform to ensure there were no dependency issues between charts. With Sisense for Cloud Data Teams’s unique dependency mapping schema, that became a very straightforward process.

“Our queries can get huge, and without those views from Sisense for Cloud Data Teams, we really couldn’t scale our data analysis,” said Maio.

Another recent project came directly from TerrAvion’s CEO, calling for Maio to develop a dashboard to share directly with important partners – within two days, he was presenting to the executive team with a detailed analysis at every question posed by the team. The flexibility to build dashboards without upfront modeling enabled Maio to act quickly.

“We can make direct connections from the number of calls we did, to the number of orders achieved, to how much was paid so far, and have an end-to-end integration that really tells the full story from sales calls to payments,” said Maio. “All in all, having all the data in one database and visualizing in Sisense for Cloud Data Teams is pretty powerful!”