On May 19, 2015, Farmers Business Network (FBN) announced that it raised $15 million in funding towards the development of its precision agriculture technologies. The Series B funding round was led by Google Ventures with prior investors Kleiner Perkins and DBL, an impact invest firm, returning. With the addition of these funds, FBN has now raised almost $28 million in venture funding. FBN raised almost six million in Series A funding from Kleiner Perkins and over three million from DBL in Series A-1 funding in prior rounds. As part of the deal, Google Ventures General Partner Andy Wheeler will join FBN’s Board of Directors.
FBN provides an independent farm-to-farm network that provides several different types of farm data to farmers throughout the country. Through FBN, farmers can access advanced analytics, including comprehensive yield benchmarking, varietal matching, and real world seed performance data. When it comes to farm data integration, the company offers the ability to integrate more than 35 farm data formats, including cleaning and standardizing services. As a result, FBN offers farmers a way to network thousands of fields together with a few keystrokes.
Currently, a variety of private companies provide precision agriculture technology, including both software and hardware components. Many of these companies also feature data-hosting services, providing farmers access to regional data from other farms in the area through a cloud-based storage system. For farmers, learning about what is happening on neighboring farms can lead to more informed decisions about crop maintenance, planting, harvesting, and pesticide usage. Considering that farmers spend billions on seed, equipment, fertilizer, and other agricultural products each year, it is no surprise that these markets are highly competitive and saturated with advertising. Before FBN, the same companies that sell seed, fertilizer, and equipment maintained the only available sources of pooled farm data.
According to FBN Co-Founder Charles Baron, “Farmers have been advising each other for thousands of years. FBN gives them a platform to do so with real information on a massive scale, so they can make the most informed decisions. It’s about putting the farmers first. This funding will allow us to reach even more farmers in more crops, so they can make the best decisions for their land.” FBN has set a clear mission: to make on-farm data simpler for farmers to use. In March 2015, for example, FBN released the FBN Seed Finder application for Apple devices. The program displays seed performance results for over 400 varieties right on a farmer’s computer or mobile device. The company charges a flat-rate $500 fee for access to its network, which features security and privacy protections.
FBN’s founders have ties to agriculture, and have worked with other technology and agriculture veterans to develop the farm-to-farm network. Baron, for example, has worked at Google and on his brother-in-law’s farm in Nebraska, giving him a perspective regarding the practical applications and necessities of this product. Additionally, CEO and co-founder Amol Deshpande has spent time working as an agricultural entrepreneur and venture capital investor with Kleiner.
According to Wheeler, “It is rare to find a team that bridges the gap between Silicon Valley tech smarts and expertise in agricultural markets.” Google Ventures is “excited to work with the FBN team as they help build the next wave of productivity in agriculture.”
Based in San Carlos, California, the company indicates that it has been able to analyze seven million acres of United States farm data in just over six months, and is growing at a rate of thirty percent per month. The funds obtained through this recent Series B financing deal with Google Ventures will enable FBN to make a national launch. The company hopes to connect with even more farmers through its network and to become the premier farm data insight service for farmers. The company employs a number of field representatives who offer one-on-one assistance to farmers throughout the United States, including many rural regions. FBN also maintains regional headquarters and offices in Davenport, Iowa, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
For its part, Google Ventures has taken an active interest in AgTech – particularly in big data, analytics, and drones – and notably came in as a Series B investor in Climate Corp. This March, Google Ventures invested in Orbital Insight, a company providing data analytics of satellite imagery. Last year, they invested in Granular, a farm management and analytics platform; Airware, a drone company developing hardware, software and services for commercial drones; and Skycatch, a drone company developing a scalable aerial robotics platform.
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