The Iranian space industry is welcoming new players in the form of startups and small businesses that use satellite data to improve the daily lives of society members. Recent university graduates, with their fresh ideas and new-found expertise, are often responsible for spearheading such initiatives. Sara Mirshekari is one of the only female leaders in this space and has successfully founded an agricultural business based on satellite data analysis, called Keshtyaar. The following is an interview with this rising star (Sh. Y. refers to the author, S.M. refers to Sara Mirshekari).
- Sh. Y: Please introduce yourself.
S.M: My name is Sara Mirshekari and I’m 27 years old. I graduated in space engineering and started my own business in space applications as a woman entrepreneur since 2019.
- Shy. Y: What is Keshtyaar’s story? Where did it all begin and how is it going?
S M: I was working in satellite industry beside my university courses specially in cube-sat system design and manufacture. The key question I was always wondering about was “how can satellites make human life better on earth?”. Right after my graduation in M.S degree, an startup weekend event named “Noavardgah” was held to help young entrepreneurs ideate and build teams about space applications. Keshtyaar was formed and raised from that event and selected by jury and won the event’s prize. The journey was very interesting for me including many lessons to learn in running and managing a startup company during 3 years of experience up to now. Keshtyaar is going very well and growing fast right now regarding it’s wonderful team and seed round fundraise as well as co-creating user friendly product together with customers/farmers and other stakeholders in agriculture industry.
- Sh. Y: What does Keshtyar do precisely?
M: Keshtyaar is an Agri-Tech startup company providing cloud-based farm management solutions powered by satellite and AI technology focused on helping farmers with innovative decision-support tools to easily monitor their fields and increase productivity. Keshtyaar assist farmers in precise agriculture, higher production and cost optimization. we have made the satellite imagery as much as understandable and easy to use for farmers and grain growers. Within the platform, Farmers can access the latest satellite imagery together with useful information including alarms and recommendations for their fields.
Earth observation satellites continuously provide plenty of spatial data and can cover a large area in a short time. The combination of satellite imagery together with artificial intelligence is where the magic happens! Regarding to machine learning and deep learning algorithms, we’ve developed innovative tools to explore more insights on agricultural lands such as crop monitoring, crop identification, crop yield estimation, crop change detection and many other applications.
- Sh. Y: How did your family react to you becoming an entrepreneur? Did you receive enough support from your family and society?
M: My family has always supported me in reaching my goals and have had my back in hard situations on my way of entrepreneurship. I think the society in my home country isn’t mature enough to fully accept women entrepreneurs and it takes time to be adapted by the majority of society. We need more role models and success stories in order to demonstrate the key characteristics of women in the society.
- Sh. Y: What are your challenges in this path? Do you receive enough organizational support from government or any other responsible organization in this matter?
S.M: There are many challenges in starting new high-tech business all around the world and in our bushiness as well. Some of the highlighted challenges include professional human resource, funding, infrastructure, market entry and of course in my country the sanctions are a big problem. Government and other responsible organizations may facilitate doing business for startups by making policies and regulations toward removing the barriers of starting business at early stages and enhance the “Ease of doing business index” in world ranking.
- Sh. Y: What is your message to young generation who wish to enter this line of work?
S.M: What I can say is some people are struggling to figure out what their life mission is or what they are passionate about. Let me give you a suggestion based on my personal experience: pay attention to activities, ideas and areas where you love the process – not just the results or the outcome. keep educating yourself and focus on your studies and find learning opportunities, don’t follow peoples’ negative thoughts and beliefs nor the culture instead inspire others to follow you and be a role model to your society. Try to be proactive, self-starter, quick learner and self-motivator and don’t have the fear of taking risk.
- Sh. Y: How can anyone access Keshtyar services? Do you represent your services internationally?
M: Our services are available online on website (Keshtyaar.ir) for Persian users and also for international users on www.cropinno.com
M: Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I really appreciate SGAC community and follow events as much as I can. Thank you for making time to speak with me today.