HarvestPort, the Californian crop inputs and equipment marketplace, has closed a bridge round of funding ahead of its Series B with grain merchant Penny Newman, farm management group Trinitas Farming, Bowles Farming Company CEO Cannon Michael, and others.
The round coincides with a new partnership with Penny Newman to launch a new soil amendment product onto the market that has the potential to reduce nitrogen application by 30% over three growing seasons. The product is relevant to all crops but with a particular focus on almonds at the moment.
HarvestPort, which aggregates demand among growers to get discounts from retailers for a variety of inputs, also aims to add value to retailers by aiding them with sales, marketing, logistics, and administration.
HarvestPort will sell “Carbon Penetrant” for Penny Newman, saving the company from hiring a dedicated sales and marketing team, a benefit for the business that is also keen to promote more sustainable agriculture practices, according to Matt Nicoletti from Penny Newman’s venture arm PN Ventures.
“A lot of folks are motivated financially, and of course we are too, but we care about the direction agriculture takes environmentally and we align with HarvestPort on that,” he told AgFunderNews. “HarvestPort also provides us with a great way to amplify that message without having to hire an internal sales team to do that for us.”
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These cost-savings make it easier for Penny Newman to pass on the discounts arranged by HarvestPort, Nicoletti added.
With regulation in California likely to limit the amount of nitrogen farmers can apply, HarvestPort is keen to provide its grower clients with the products they need to help with this.
Carbon Penetrant opens up and aerates the soil, enabling better root penetration of nutrients and providing a source of carbon to microbes in the soil, essentially providing them with energy and reducing the need for nitrogen application.
“We are trying to educate farmers that there are different products they can use other than the traditional NPK cocktail that follows a law of diminishing returns, requiring you to buy more year-over-year, and increase that line-time expense at the same time as destroying microbial life in your soil,” said Nicoletti.
The soil amendment will form part of a new “Transitional Inputs” package that HarvestPort is selling that will also include conventional fertilizer.
“HarvestPort’s Transitional Inputs offering is being deployed based on overwhelming grower feedback. Many growers have reported an interest in trying novel soil amendments to maintain the fertility of their soil, but most were reluctant to take additional risk by completely switching over to a new portfolio of crop inputs,” said Brian Dawson, CEO of HarvestPort. “The idea is to find the middle ground allowing our growers to save money today by securing the products that predictably net an expected yield, while also helping them transition to a future where they can radically reduce their spend on inputs long-term.”
This focus on aiding the adoption of more sustainable farming practices was a draw for Trinitas Farming too. “We are constantly looking for ways to be more sustainable; this type of approach lets us push aggressively towards environmental goals, while ensuring we maximize the return to our shareholders,” said Trinitas Farming partner Ceil Howe III in a statement.
Penny Newman will also sell other more traditional products through the Transitional Inputs package, according to Nicoletti.
“We’re thrilled that HarvestPort has provided us a means through which we can service our current customers more cost-effectively, but what excites us most is that they are enabling us to reach new markets and launch new products without additional personnel and infrastructure.”