Precision irrigation management provider Hortau announced earlier this week that it has secured $5 million in funding from Advantage Capital Agribusiness Partners (ACAP). ACAP, which holds a Rural Business Investment Company license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, focuses on companies involved in production, processing, and supply of agricultural products. The partnership, which manages a $154.5 million fund, represents a joint effort between nine Farm Credit organizations and Advantage Capital Partners.
With California facing its fourth year of historic drought, farmers are becoming more water conscious than ever. Hortau sees the investment as a crucial step in helping it ramp up its research and development during this critical time. The United States Drought Monitor reports that California is currently experiencing an “exceptional drought,” which is the most severe level on its scale.
“This investment will help us grow the business during a critical time here in California and the U.S., where water issues are becoming the norm,” said Hortau CEO Jocelyn Boudreau. “Agriculture is currently going through an evolution phase, using data-driven technologies to bring more precision and insight to the daily precision processes.” Boudreau sees Hortau’s technology as “right in line” with this growing trend.
Based in San Luis Obispo, California, Hortau has provided real-time soil moisture monitoring products for over a decade, and holds itself out as an industry leader in the realm of precision soil moisture monitoring. The company says that it developed one of the first web-based irrigation management systems on the market, and helped growers take much of the guesswork out of irrigation management.
Using soil tension, Hortau’s products determine the precise amount of water that needs to be applied to a particular crop or orchard. Knowing exactly how thirsty plants are and providing them with just the right dose of moisture can lead to better plant health, increased yields, and lower irrigation costs. With water reaching sky-high and historically unheard of prices throughout the California’s agriculturally robust San Joaquin Valley, cutting costs on water expenses is at the top of most farmers’ to-do lists.
Soil tension measurements also allow farmers to tell when a crop is experiencing stress, which is a main factor in driving crop yield and quality before the damage done is too great. Sensing plant stress can help reduce fertilizer leaching, which provides another way to improve an operation’s bottom line. Hortau delvers data straight to a farmers’ mobile device or tablet through its easy-to-use software platform and provides real time updates on how crops are faring.
“Hortau’s proven soil sensing technology provides farmers with a tremendous value proposition in terms of both crop yield improvements and water conservation, which is driving strong growth in the business,” said Timothy Hassler, Principal at Advantage Capital. “We are very excited about partnering with Hortau and supporting its continued growth.”
The company not only offers its precision irrigation system, but educational seminars as well. Founded in 2002 by Jean Caron, an agronomist with a Ph.D. in Soil Physics, and Boudreau, an agricultural engineer with a M.Sc. in Soil Physics, Hortau has been sharing its research and development with farmers for over ten years. Through these regular irrigation management seminars, Hortau aims to ensure that growers are getting the most out of their water resources and crops.
Hortau’s research has received attention from a number of institutions, and was recently featured in a whitepaper by Bank of America and Merril Lynch discussing methods that growers can use to prevent weather-related losses in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that roughly 90 percent of crop loss issues are associated with weather conditions. According to the whitepaper, precision irrigation technologies are “the low-hanging fruit” of smart solutions to these issues while also offering “a high payoff and a quick return on investment.”
On its new partnership with ACAP, Boudreau said, “This new partnership with Advantage Capital will allow us to make our system more affordable and accessible to our growers, accelerating adoption and creating a true win-win situation for the industry.”
“We’re excited to be working with Advantage Capital Partners, and align with the fund’s mission to create more jobs in agriculture and improve irrigation technologies int he field,” said Boudreau. “The Advantage Capital team h as been a great partner to work with. They’re well connected, know what it takes to be successful in the agriculture sector, and bring a lot more than capital to the table.”
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