Farmnote, a Japanese startup manufacturing wearable technology to collect data from cattle, has raised ¥500 million ($4.6 million) in funding.
Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations, the Norinchukin Bank and Sumitomo Corporation all contributed to the round.
Farmnote’s wearable device, the Farmnote Color, is attached to the animal’s head and gathers information about each animal’s activity in real time. Through its analytical software platform, Farmnote then sends farmers alerts to their mobile phones such as when cattle are unwell, ovulating, or giving birth. It is suitable for both dairy cows and beef cattle.
Farmers can also integrate their own information about their cattle into the program to improve the analytics on each cow in the herd.
Sales of Farmnote Color grew nearly 30 times in three years to 1,600 farms for 160,000 heads of cattle, according to a press release.
The startup aims to use the funding for further R&D but also to expand overseas, and it will leverage its partnership with Sumitomo Corp to do so, according to a press release.
Farmnote will also work with Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations and NTT DOCOMO, the leading mobile phone operator in Japan, to distribute the technology domestically.
Farmnote is one of very few agtech startups focused on the livestock industry in Japan, although the dairy and beef industry in Japan is valued over $10 billion, according to some estimates.
Sumitomo came across the startup when looking for technologies to distribute in Brazil through its new trading partner Agro Amazonia, in which it acquired a majority stake in 2015.
Agro Amazonia is a retailer of agricultural and livestock inputs such as fertilizers, seeds, and veterinary products and Sumitomo saw this acquisition as a great opportunity to channel some new agtech products to Agro Amazonia customers, according to Kaoru Hosoda, who works in the agricultural science department of Sumitomo.
“There were not many similar startup companies offering technology like this to the livestock industry as most are focusing on crops instead,” he told AgFunderNews. “Sumitomo has a global network of over 100 countries so we will be able to deliver Farmnote to every country, not just Brazil.”
Farmnote was founded by Kobayashi-san, who was born in Hokkaido to a livestock farming family, but studied and worked in IT for many years. He later came back to farming and decided to launch a product to help the industry manage its operations with data capture and analytics. Kobayashi hopes to increase farmer revenues through the use of IoT.
“He tried to make products to solve farmer painpoints and held several meetings to ensure he was doing so,” said Hosoda. “He believes there are many agtech products out there that do not understand what farmers want.”
There are a few other animal wearable startups in the agtech space globally today including BovControl out of Brazil, Moocall from Ireland, Agersens in Australia, Cowlar from the US, and Connectera from the Netherlands.