November 24, 2015 / Submitted by AgriCharts
Agricultural technology is sweeping across the country and hitting farms from the Great Plains to California like never before. With drones for surveying crops, GPS guided combines, precision agriculture and deep dives into ag-related data like machinery, seeds, weather and soil conditions, the era of AgTech has arrived. But how did it become so big, so fast?
According to FARM2050, by year 2050, our estimated worldwide population will be 10 billion people, meaning we would need to increase our global food production by 70%. This is one reason why AgTech startups like Freight Farms and Growtainer are popping up all around the country with the goal of improving our world's food supply through smart and urban farming. In addition to the global food situation, the significant growth within AgTech can be credited to the technological advances that allow us to innovate these products and ideas. Without the advances in biotechnology for seeds, mechanics for devices like drones, wireless data collection and cloud-based big data processing, AgTech startups would not have the necessary technology to create products.
In order for these startups to get off the ground, as in any industry, funding is a necessity. Take a look below at some big-time investors who are funding the significant growth in AgTech.
Besides being the most popular search engine in the world, Google also invests in some of the newest and most innovative companies through their investment program, Google Ventures. If you are a startup and receive an investment from Google Ventures, that usually means you are doing something extremely well. Turns out, Andy Wheeler, General Partner at Google Ventures, saw something promising within an AgTech startup this past May and led the $15 million Series B investment in the Farmer's Business Network. The Farmer's Business Network (FBN), provides simplified farm data solutions to farmers through field level insights, yield analysis, seed optimization and more. With this deal, Farmer's Business Network has received a total funding of $28 million.
TAO CAPITAL PARTNERS
With an investment portfolio consisting of names like Uber, Tesla and SpaceX, Tao Capital Partners is keen to finding the newest and best emerging startups and happened to find a winner in Granular, which is an AgTech startup that provides data science to farmers in order to enhance operations on the farm. The Series B Round, which was led by Tao Capital Partners, concluded with total fundings reaching $18.7 million. According to Granular, this round of funding went towards hiring team members and adding new crop and livestock segments to the product.
Intel's global investment organization, Intel Capital, has noticed the advancements surrounding AgTech and knew there was opportunity with PrecisionHawk, a new startup that delivers information to farmers through drones. Intel Capital, in addition to other investors, participated in the Series B funding which led to PrecisionHawk receiving a total of $10 million at the end of that round. PrecisionHawk is leading the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle industry through mapping data, sensors, analytics and algorithms delivered specifically for agribusinesses. According to PrecisionHawk, the product shouldn't be seen solely as just a drone, but instead should be seen as an information delivery solution for farm management.
"We invest in smart people solving difficult problems," reads the manifesto of Founders Fund. From Facebook to Airbnb and Spotify, the team at this investment firm are no strangers to finding the next big thing. Turns out, they found the next big thing in an AgTech startup, The Climate Corporation, which resulted in a $50 million Series C round led by the Founders Fund in the summer of 2012. The Climate Corporation, which allows for individuals and businesses to adapt and manage climate change, provides a variety of products which helps the global $3 trillion agricultural industry maintain and improve profits to help feed the world. In October of 2013, The Climate Corporation was acquired by Monsanto for $930 million. According to Monsanto, this deal represents their commitment to produce more, conserve more and improve lives by providing farmers with better information to make smarter choices as they work to produce food more efficiently.
Founded in 2005, Finistere Ventures invests in "Entrepreneurs who are changing the world." With AgTech providing sustainability for the future, it was an ideal industry to fund for Finistere Ventures, who this past June financed a $9 million Series A round for CropX. CropX, which provides analytics for advanced irrigation systems, strives to provide water management solutions for farms to prevent droughts and preserve the global supply of water. Finistere Ventures considers themselves pioneers to the AgTech industry and believes that CropX will provide agribusinesses the necessary tools to minimize water usage, save energy and strengthen yields to ultimately improve the environment.
Described as one of the biggest commercialized seed accelerators in the world by Forbes, Y Combinator has funded over 800 startups, including two AgTech companies, since being founded in 2005. One firm Y Combinator decided to invest in is Ann Arbor based, FarmLogs, which provides farm management software to the agricultural industry. The seed investment was funded in 2012 for an undisclosed amount. The second AgTech company invested in by Y Combinator was TerrAvion which provides high quality, real-time aerial imagery for farmers which ultimately delivers data to optimize production. This 2014 seed investment was also funded for an undisclosed amount.
It is clear that AgTech is a booming industry. As of mid-year 2015, investments within agricultural technology had already reached $2.06 billion from 228 deals. With a total investment of $2.3 billion in 2014 from 264 deals, it is clear that AgTech is an attractive industry to big investors and will continue to be for a long time.
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