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Growers Raises $5m Series A for Farm Data Analytics with ‘Software Plus Services’ Business Model

September 12, 2018

Growers Holdings, a digital agriculture software and services startup, has raised $5 million in Series A funding in a round led by US heartland-focused investor Lewis & Clark Ventures.

Other agtech-focused investors joined the round including Innova Memphis, an early-stage venture capital firm founded in 2007 by Memphis Bioworks, the Virginia-focused VTC Innovation Fund managed by Middleland Capital, and a leading agtech entrepreneur.

All the existing investors also participated, including ag investment group Tiverton Advisors, Albany Private Equity Partners, and real estate and ag investor Maize Partners.

Growers offers farmers and their trusted advisors a software plus services product to help them manage their operations and provide detailed agronomic advice for precision agriculture.

Growers founder and CEO Steven Valencsin says that this model is unrivaled in the US market and the business is already pulling in millions of dollars of revenue each year.

“Our philosophy is that the services component is more important than the software and is the missing opportunity in ag,” he told AgFunderNews.

“We are building a digital platform to help farmers utilize all the data and technology available in precision ag to get real value on the farm. There is plenty of software out there for farmers, but it’s critical to have a services component to make sure the agtech works and is integrated with the farm’s operations. We provide boots on the ground to help customers collect data and execute against it, such as with variable rate input prescriptions.”

Ready to answer questions about how such a model scales in line with venture capital expectations, Valencsin spoke about how Growers has enabled an “army of people” to provide value to farmers. This army is made up of the crop consultants, seed retailers, and agronomists that are already working with farmers in what Valencsin describes as a B2B2C model. “We are fully leveraging the existing channel,” he added.

While Growers is priced at a premium to other precision ag platforms, it has demonstrated a 3-5x ROI to the farmer from a combination of input savings and yield increases, which presents “a significant revenue opportunity for our partners [the agronomists, retailers, etc.]” according to Shelley Smith, marketing director. “We’re bringing them additional revenue, not additional cost.”

This is a new go-to-market model for the company that has customers in 10 states; it was selling direct-to-farmer when it was founded in 2011 until recently.

Growers works with this army to collect all the data coming off a farm from whatever sources that farmer is using. From there it can simply organize, calibrate and process the data for growers, or get more involved with soil sampling, fertility insights, maps, and data insight, as well as produce variable-rate seeding and fertilizer prescriptions.

“Everyone who works in this field understands the promise of digital agriculture. But the challenge is getting all the pieces to click together for farmers to have a successful outcome. That’s the solution we offer,” wrote Valencsin in a release.

Growers also provides farmers with insights on hybrid seed selection from one part of the farm to the next, giving them information about the right location for each hybrid but also the right population. It will also compare performance year-over-year to determine a grower’s return on investment for various inputs and tools.

Since inception, Growers has helped farmers generate $50 million more in incremental revenue and reduced the over application of 160 million tons of commercial fertilizer, while also increasing yield, according to a press release.

Valencsin pointed to various alternative platforms such as Climate’s FieldView and Farmers’ Edge as potential competitors but said Growers was the only one providing both operational insights — such as machine tracking and logistics — as well as agronomic advice. It does not provide ERP tools.

“Growers’ platform is wholly unique. At Lewis & Clark, we’ve evaluated hundreds of agtech companies. Few truly understand the
complexities of delivering farm data analytics at scale the way Growers does, and few have a track record of delivering 10% to 20% yield improvements with fewer inputs across hundreds of
thousands of acres,” said Lewis & Clark principal Larry Page.

Growers will use the funding to build out the technology platform and increase the analytical capabilities of the team. It will also scale its go-to-market strategy.

Last year the company hired Ron Zink, previously director of Digital Solutions at John Deere to lead software development, and Gabriel Wilmoth as COO, who was previously investment director at Syngenta Ventures. The company has over 30 employees is based out of both Raleigh, North Carolina and Seattle, Washington.

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