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One of SeeTree's drones in action over farmland. Image credit: SeeTree

Orbia launches $130m venture fund, injects $3m into plant health startup SeeTree

November 25, 2020

Orbia, a Mexico City-based conglomerate providing specialty products and solutions for the agriculture, building and infrastructure, healthcare, and telecommunications industries, has launched its first corporate venture fund.

“It’s an off-balance sheet fund that will mainly support ventures that, somewhere along the road, are strategic to one of our group’s operations or strategies. We’ll do around 20 investments over a period of five years,” Eitan Dekel, managing director of Orbia Ventures, told AFN.

The $130 million fund will focus on Series A and Series B deals with an average check size of around $1 million to $6 million. Deals will be sourced from a variety of regions, with a focus on Israel — where Dekel is based, in the group’s Tel Aviv office — Europe, and the US. Orbia also maintains headquarters in Amsterdam and Boston.

The fund was started about a year ago and deal flow has gained steam since then, he said.

“Every crossroad that a startup passes, we are tapping into that – so people will know about [us.] And it’s working well.”

Orbia Ventures is searching for companies that disrupt markets and make them more efficient, and make technology easier for consumers to use. Good teams and alignment with the values and strategy of Orbia — known until September 2019 as Mexichem — are also attractive.

Although the fund is actively looking for technologies that complement Orbia’s existing enterprises, it’s also open to opportunities that will be a “surprise,” Dekel said.

Orbia Ventures has also revealed its first investment – a $3 million injection into SeeTree, a Tel Aviv-based startup that provides tree health insights. 

SeeTree combines military-grade drones, ground sensors, AI, and machine learning with ‘boots-on-the-ground’ data collection in order to monitor and assess the health of orchards and groves. This allows it provide what it describes as a more holistic approach compared to competing services that focus on specific aspects of health monitoring.

The startup raised $11.5 million for its January 2019 Series A round, which was led by Hanaco Ventures with participation from Canaan Partners Israel, iAngels, Mindset Ventures, and an investor group led by Uri Levine, Israeli entrepreneur and founder of navigation app Waze.

Orbia Ventures was attracted to SeeTree because of its ability to not only collect data, but make it useful, Dekel said.

“You see quite a lot of companies offering a lot of data and information to farmers about their crops and fields [but] the farmer’s main job is to grow food. For them to have to deal with so many technologies and applications is a hassle,” he continued.

“The second part is what I call ‘closing the loop,’ and is where you can take real actions based on recommendations.”

Orbia’s Israel-based precision agriculture business, Netafim, will incorporate SeeTree’s solutions into its digital farming offering and support the startup’s continued development.

“As a startup aspiring to make a difference in the digital farming and precision agriculture space, this investment by Orbia is an exciting opportunity,” Israel Talpaz, co-founder and CEO of SeeTree, in a statement.

“By tapping into Netafim’s global reach in the agriculture sector and leveraging its expertise, we [will] continue to showcase the value of a holistic, data-driven approach to customized farming.”

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