Agricultural data and analytics technology companies continued to attract investment capital last week, despite concerns that this segment of the agtech sector is overheating and causing confusion within the farming community.
Recent deals in the broad ag data space include a $10 million debt financing for enterprise resource planning tool Conservis; a $5 million Series A for satellite imagery company Descartes Labs; a $4.1 million Series A for Agrible, a predictive analytics platform; and Granular’s $18.7 million Series B in the summer.
Partnerships in the segment have also gathered pace with John Deere buying Precision Planting from Monsanto and entering into a partnership with Climate Corp’s FieldView platform while weather data platform aWhere also teamed up with John Deere.
This week, Farmobile, a Kansas City-based hardware and software company raised $5.5 million in Series A funding while S4 (formerly Solapa4), a St Louis-based company using satellite imagery and data analytics, raised $1.2 million in seed capital.
European food and agriculture venture investor Anterra Capital took the lead on Farmobile’s round of funding and was joined by a Kansas City-based investor. This is Anterra’s first ag data investment after several years of researching the space, according to Dudley Hawes, partner at Anterra Capital.
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“Leading up to the Farmobile investment, we’ve been doing quite some groundwork in the precision ag space since the launch of Anterra Capital back in 2013,” he told AgFunderNews. “Since then we’ve made our own market map and reviewed over 200 opportunities in the space.”
Farmobile appealed to Anterra due to its unique approach in working with farmers and their data. Farmobile, which sells hardware units and a software platform, is building out distribution channels to provide farmers with ownership rights over their data. This is unlike some Silicon Valley ag data companies which collect data and sell it on for a profit, argued Jason Tatge, Farmobile’s founder and CEO.
“We never own the data; we simply provide a place for farmers to store, their data and we store it in our database for the farmer to use as needed and/or share with partners,” Tatge said. “If we discover people who want to buy it, we share the revenue with the farmer.”
The funding will go towards developing and distributing new hardware units, which are attached to farm machinery, and the company’s signature real-time “dirt-to-database” software platform. Far mobile wants to improve the connectivity between tractor and database, expand the team and also improve the flow of data into other systems a farmer might use to make decisions.
“We have focused the past two years on being the best at collecting data from the dirt to the database getting a strong, consistent data set into a database that we can then allow the farmer to control and direct where the data needs to go,” Tatge told AgFunderNews. “This means a great deal to farmers. We’ve been able to raise money locally, and now we’re able to raise money globally, which will go far.”
The company’s software platform provides real-time decision support for planting, spraying, fertilization, harvest, fleet management, and more.
Anterra Capital first learned about Farmobile 18 months ago at InfoAg in St Louis, and followed its progress over the past year or so.
“We see tremendous potential in Farmobile’s data services and the team’s commitment to farmer-owned data,” Hawes said. “This is a high quality entrepreneurial team capable of building a large company in this area.”
Anterra Capital, which has now invested into seven food and ag-related companies, believes there could be potential for synergies within its portfolio.
“Within the portfolio we are keen on what’s going on at LemnaTec with field phenotyping and some of the new data and bioinformatics tools the company is developing,” Hawes said. “At Vestaron, we’re very excited about the recent announcement by the EPA approving their SPEAR product as a bee-safe biopesticide.”
Meanwhile, S4 raised $1.4 million from Biogenerator, the St. Louis-based evergreen investor and acceleration firm. S4 uses satellite images and data analytics to help its customers predict crop yields, aiming to enable them to make more informed decisions and better allocate their resources.
“There are plenty of companies trying to figure out how to use aerial imagery crop assessment, but what made this company unique in the pool is that they have a strong team with an agronomic background and they had some customer validation,” Crystal Winkeler, an investment analyst with BioGenerator, told AgFunderNews. “Ag IT is a hot area and S4 really checked off all of the main things that we look for.”
S4 was founded by a team in Argentina and moved to its US headquarters following an investment from The Yield Lab, an agtech accelerator, earlier in 2015.
“Given our regional strength in agriculture and the fact that BioGenerator is looking for strong ag companies to invest in, S4 was really perfect and a great fit for our investment philosophy,” Winkeler said. “Syngenta has already launched a product using us for index in Argentina and over the next year, we will really be excited to hear announcements of new customers and/or new products using the S4 technology.”
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