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TeleSense Closes $6.5m Series A for Grain Monitoring IoT Platform to Reduce Spoilage

August 28, 2018

TeleSense, a Silicon Valley startup using IoT technology to improve grain storage, has raised $6.5 million in Series A funding from a range of strategic, industry investors as well as venture capital firms.

TeleSense’s proprietary sensor collects data about the condition of grains in storage to detect nonoptimal storage conditions and reduce spoilage. In the last growing season, over a matter of months, the startup saved $3 million worth of grain from ruin, according to CEO Naeem Zafar. About $12 billion of grain is lost to spoilage every year.

Notably, Maersk Growth, the venture capital arm of the Danish logistics and transportation giant, made its first agtech investment in TeleSense, just a few months after launching FoodTrack, its startup acceleration program. Trailhead Capital, the investment arm of McDonald Pelz, the ag commodities broker, also participated. These investors will provide great strategic insights and opportunities for the company, said Zafar, a serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Financial investors included lead investor Finistere Ventures, Rabobank’s Food & Agri Innovation Fund, Congruent Ventures, Radicle Growth, and previous investor Plug & Play Ventures.

According to Zafar, only 30% of the 475,000 grain storage locations worldwide have some instrumentation deployed to gather data, mostly measuring temperature with only a few measuring humidity. And even those examples required manual operation and data collection.

GrainSafe sensor ball
TeleSense’s sensor ball for grain storage monitoring

TeleSense has designed a sensor that can be thrown into a pile of grain or any storage facility and transmits data up-to four times a day about the temperature and humidity of a storage facility. The startup then gives clients real-time information about their grain such as when there are hot spots, which can rapidly develop into fires. Machine learning algorithms will also give them recommendations about when to fumigate, how long to store, and also what the quality will be like in the future to help them decide when to sell.

“We have seen that the recent case of bumper crops have resulted in surplus grain, causing storage complexities around the globe. Intelligent, data-driven decisions will help decrease the pressure of seasonal pricing fluctuations, global trade and tariff concerns, and currency issues,” Zafar wrote in a statement. “We want storage operators to have a clear view of the condition of all their stored grain, so potential issues can be detected and any negative business impact mitigated.”

The technology will disrupt how is grain stored, how it’s transported, and ultimately how farmers and grain elevators market their grain to buyers — namely the ABCD commodity trading houses (ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus), according to Zafar.

“For a long time, farmers have had the knowledge; whatever a Bunge guy said they’d pay is what the farmers would sell their grain for, but over the last few years, as the farmer collects more data, the power dynamics of the industry are changing,” he said. “We’re about democratizing the data about the condition of corn, its expected quality, and expected pricing to help them make decisions, and this will distance us from the larger companies.”

TeleSense will target the grain elevators and “off-farm” storage operators in the first instance, before marketing their technology to on-farm operations that represent 55% of storage globally but “are much more fragmented and therefore harder to get,” said Zafar.

TeleSense also wants to be able to use the data it collects and insights its software produces to attract financial services, insurance and transport companies, he added.

The company will invest in further R&D of its GrainSafe platform as well as look to expanding into its targeted regions of Latin America, Australia, North America and Eastern Europe by building an international channel partner program.

TeleSense also has capabilities in cold storage and local transport and tracking, according to its website.

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