Editor’s Note: This article was updated on November 29, 2018, with comment from eAgronom co-founder Robin Saluoks.
Farm management software company eAgronom has completed a €1 million ($1.1 million) seed round that includes four international VCs: early-stage investors Black Pearls VC from Poland, European-focused Trind Ventures VC and foodtech-focused United Angels VC from Estonia, and UK-based TMT Investments. Business angels and previous angel investors also participated in the round.
This brings the company’s total funding to €2 million ($2.25 million), including a €500k investment from 50 customers of eAgronom in a unique farmer-crowdfunding campaign earlier this year.
“This raise gives us enough runway to build and prove a scalable sales force. I love the beauty of sales: the art of helping people to make decisions that will change their life,” company co-founder Robin Saluoks told AgFunderNews. “The guys in our sales team are the ones who open the digital potential for farmers. We have already doubled our sales team from the time we raised the money until this moment.”
Saluoks and the team spoke with a number of investors and chose a group that they felt supported the company’s long-term vision. SaaS is just the beginning for eAgronom, says Saluoks. And while many VCs lacked farming experience, he enjoyed the opportunity to educate a new audience and the exercise in thinking through the industry more deeply.
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The web and mobile platform allows grain farmers to manage and oversee their farm in real-time, including employee operations and activities in the field. According to the Estonia-based company’s case studies, the tool can help farmers save tens to hundreds of thousands of euros per year by reducing risks, improving planning, and honing in on the time it takes to complete certain tasks.
“All the investors in this round have given us valuable knowledge that we will use to grow the business. International VCs, target market investors and builders of successful SaaS start-ups – they all support and help us focus on our long-term strategy. This is crucial for building a company that is going to optimize the entire food industry,” company co-founder and CEO Robin Saluoks said in a press release announcing the funding.
The startup will use the new funds to improve the platform’s agronomic and financial analysis modules that help calculate how agronomic decisions impact financial results. The funds will also help scale sales and support teams to bring more acres on board.
Using a team of 35 specialists and 50 total employees, eAgronom has launched its product in 9 countries from Poland to Canada and boasts 700,000 hectares of grain under management. The outfit hopes to grow to one million paying hectares within their system by March 2019 and at least 100 million hectares in the next five-to-seven years.
For co-founder Robin Saluoks, being raised in a family of farmers gave him early inspiration for applying technology-based solutions to farmers’ pain points, particularly when it comes to farm management. Saluoks started his first company at the age of 17 and received the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2018 in Estonia for his work on eAgronom.
His fellow co-founder Stenver Jerkku built the roots of the startups’ engineering team. A graduate of the Faculty of Software Engineering at the University of Tartu, Stenver gained experience in multiple startup ventures, including the successful startup SaleMove.
The company is focused on grain operations for now, but eAgronom has many other crops on its to-do list.
“By focusing only on grain, we have lost some customers. But this is also the reason why I can say with full confidence that eAgronom is the best solution for grain farmers. One of the investors during our last round was an investor in our competitor who did an exit. He was skeptical at the beginning, but decided to invest after he called some of our customers,” Saluoks says.
Grain was also the first choice for eAgronom due to its prevalence in the food system. As the company expands to other crops, Saluoks and the team will look for things that have synergies with the company’s existing program applications.
Farm Management Software is a Distinct and Growing Sector in Agtech
Almost any farmer will tell you that finding ways to improve whole-farm management would be an ideal opportunity. As a result, farm management software tools have been a distinct and growing sector of agtech for several years. Other sources suggest that farm management software could be a key component in improving traceability throughout the food system.
Unsurprisingly, the US market for farm management software could grow to $1.62 billion according to a report issued earlier this year. Although the first farm management software platforms’ were introduced to the market more than a decade ago, most farmers still rely on pen, paper, and non-computerized tools to keep farm records according to the study. Just 16.5% of the farmers surveyed currently use any kind of farm management software system.
Some of the largest agriculture companies are taking notice of these tools. Cargill invested in a Brazilian swine farm management software system Agriness in September 2018 and Syngenta acquired Brazilian farm management software platform Strider in March 2018. In August 2017, DuPont acquired Granular as a result of conversations it had with its customers who expressed a desire to take farm records to the next digital level.