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Mineral rovers, field, 2
Image credit: Mineral

Mineral winds down: ‘We will no longer be an Alphabet company; but our technology will live on…’

July 3, 2024

Google’s parent company Alphabet is winding down operations at AI-fueled ag intelligence startup Mineral, just over a year after it emerged from stealth, and switching to a licensing model.

Incubated in Alphabet’s moonshot technology lab X, Mineral officially debuted in January 2023, promising to deliver “foundational technologies to help other companies go faster” by combining data from unmanned rovers laden with cameras moving through farmland with “large, multimodal, unstructured sets of the world’s agricultural data sourced from satellite images, farm equipment, and public databases.” Initial partners included berry giant Driscoll’s, crop input giant Syngenta, and global food security group CGIAR.

In an interview with AgFunderNews at the time, CEO Elliott Grant said the firm had developed machine-learning models to help agribusinesses “predict crop yields, increase production, target pests and weeds, reduce waste, minimize chemical and water use, and reduce the impact of agriculture on the planet.”

In a statement on the Mineral website posted today about its new business model, first reported by Bloomberg, Grant said Mineral would now be licensing tech to partners such as berry producer Driscoll’s.

“We’ve noted before that we’ve been looking for new and innovative partnerships that can transcend traditional approaches. As a result, earlier this year, we decided to rethink Mineral’s structure and our approach to achieving a positive impact for the greatest number of farmers. Mineral will no longer be an Alphabet company, and our technology will live on inside of leading agribusinesses where they can have maximum impact.”

He added: “We worked with partners from day one. We built robots that could inspect every plant in a field… We applied the most recent breakthroughs in AI and generative AI to help our partners tackle the urgent challenges of reducing food waste, improving forecasting, and collecting higher quality data.”

According to Grant: “Mineral had partnered closely with Driscoll’s to develop AI tools to improve crop phenotyping, better forecast yields, optimize quality inspections, and reduce food waste in the supply chain. Some of the technologies we developed have now been transferred to Driscoll’s and will be integrated into their systems to help achieve their sustainability ambitions.”

According to Bloomberg, Mineral employees had spent months “trying to find a way to continue their work” as it “became clear that Mineral didn’t have a future within Alphabet.” While the company had forged partnerships with some leading players in food & ag, said the publication quoting an unnamed source, it had “struggled to translate such deals into durable revenue streams.”

More announcements to follow…

Head of marketing Megan Fallon told AgFunderNews that additional announcements about other partnerships “with leading innovators” would be announced in due course but the company can’t comment further at this stage.

She said the tech available for licensing is “software and our AI technology, not hardware” and noted that the unmanned rovers “are not going to Driscoll’s” but had “proved really valuable” to the partnership “from a data collection standpoint.”

She did not confirm how many people had been laid off at Mineral, but said that “A lot of people at Mineral are really passionate about leveraging technology to drive a more innovative agriculture ecosystem and so we’re working on landing them [new positions], both within the Alphabet system and within agribusinesses.”

She added: “What I can tell you is that we’re really excited about where some of our technologies are landing and believe that in a lot of ways we’re achieving our mission, which is to have maximum impact for farmers.”

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