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Photo credit: Arable

Arable raises $20m Series B funding for global expansion, starting with Brazil

October 29, 2020

San Francisco-based crop management platform Arable has raised $20 million in a Series B round led by local VC firm Prelude Ventures.

The round also included participation from new investors such as M20 and Nassau Street Ventures, as well as existing backers S2G Ventures and Middleland Capital.

The funding will be used to help Arable embark on a global expansion – and it has its eye set on Brazil for starters. Among the other new investors to come on board for the startup’s Series B is Tridon, the VC arm of Brazilian agribusiness Grupo Jacto.

“They’re the market leader in sprayers and mostly do farm equivalent. They invented the coffee harvester. They’re just a really fascinating and important brand in Brazil,” Arable CEO Jim Ethington told AFN.

The startup has been working on its Brazil launch for two years, Ethington said, hiring its first employees in the country over the last three months. In addition to an existing partnership with Tridon, it is working with Claro, one of the country’s largest mobile network operators.

“We’ve built a system that has the capability to operate globally [because of] the way that we’ve approached things like connectivity, or just the way we’re able to design the product,” Ethington claimed. “But it’s still a time-consuming and expensive endeavor to actually launch in a new country. We’ve seen a lot of interest in demand that we’ve largely had to turn down.”

Arable uses spectral and thermal sensors to observe crop development on a continuous and real-time basis throughout the growing season. This helps farmers to predict the onset of plant stress caused by things like lack of water, or pressure from pests.

To measure rainfall, it uses a custom dome and a suite of microphones to analyze the sound of falling raindrops, allowing it to determine the amount and intensity of the rain.

Since launching in 2015, Arable has deployed thousands of devices across hundreds of thousands of farm acres, by its count, delivering intelligence on over 37 different crops in 39 countries. It reported a 300% growth in sales during the third quarter of 2020.

The startup now maintains a calibration-validation network of over 30 scientific research sites and uses a machine-learning algorithm to improve accuracy through the collection of 36 million data points each day.

Its tie-ups have included major names in agribusiness like Bayer, BASF, and Nutrien, as well as large consumer food companies like Mars, Lamb Weston, and Treasury Wine Estates and fellow startups like Planet, Terramera, and Pivot Bio

Ethington estimates that he’s spoken to over 1,000 farmers by now and finds that they have a common response to questions about their biggest pain points: technologies set up in different systems that don’t talk to one another. This inspired Arable to seek out collaborations to help give farmers what they are asking for.

“We go out and try to find partners where they have some existing valuable product that they are offering to the farmer that we can make better,” he said. “It’s a great example of what we do with BASF and Xarvio, which is a great product for managing crop protection. We can add even more specific and reliable in-field data and analytics to that product.”

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