Smart irrigation company CropX has announced a $9 million Series A round led by Innovation Endeavors, Finistere Ventures, GreenSoil Investments. Prior backer OurCrowd also participated in the round. CropX uses wireless sensors and big data to help farmers conserve water used in crop growing operations. With drought conditions accelerating around the globe, water management has become one of the most critical issues facing the farming sector.
Founded in 2012 in New Zealand, CropX has since opened headquarters in Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley. “CropX is an ag-analystics company that has developed the world’s most advanced adaptive irrigation service, which automatically optimizes irrigation, thereby delivering dramatic crop yield increase and water and energy cost savings to farms,” reads the company’s website.
CropX’s strategy is based on the premise that land is not uniform. Different parts of a field can have drastically different and ever-changing needs when it comes to irrigation. To that end, the company has developed a way to create daily, accurate, and hassle-free irrigation maps showing a farmer where his or her fields are the thirstiest and where less water is needed.
The technology involves placing three wireless sensors in the ground, which continuously send soil readings to a cloud storage database. In the cloud, patent-pending CropX software determines how to irrigate different parts of the field most effectively based on pattern-recognition analysis and cutting-edge algorithms. The farmer accesses the data and field assessments by downloading CropX’s free mobile phone app. Users pay a monthly subscription fee based on the size of their fields.
The product is designed to be simple to navigate and use. For example, farmers can self-install the system without needing to purchase expensive infrastructure or significant consulting input during the installation process.
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According to CropX, the investment will be used to aggressively expand the company’s team and scale the company to meet the increasing need among farmers for low-cost and user-friendly remote control of their irrigation systems. It will also fund new product development including controls in nutrition, plant protection, and planting and harvesting prediction.
In 2010, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt founded Innovation Endeavors with the goal of making early-stage investments in startups seeking to innovate in traditionally older industries. Some of the fund’s earliest investments included Uber, a car share company that is now one of the most highly valued startups in the world, and Addepar, a finance startup that interprets big data in order to analyze portfolio risk. With its participation in CropX’s recent round, Innovation Endeavors is looking to expand its reach into the environmental sector.
The investment also marks the first play for the Farm2050 project, a cross-industry collaboration between a number of companies, including Innovation Endeavors, DuPont, and Google.
“CropX is our first AgTech investment since the launch of the Farm2050 collective, which has grown significantly since its inception in late 2014,” stated Innovation Endeavors Managing Partner Dror Berman. “CropX is a leader in the digital agriculture space, helping farmers globally overcome rising irrigation challenges. We are excited to support such a fantastic team that is building the future ag tools.”
Farm 2050’s ultimate goal is to find ways to help the agriculture industry increase its production to meet the growing global demand for food and fiber. According to many reports, the global population will reach 11 million in 2050 and the agriculture industry will need to increase its production capacity by least 70 percent in order to feed everyone. Farm2050 is designed to support AgTech startups with the full gamut of resources: capital, design, manufacturing, and test farms.
“The world is running out of water, and, therefore, food. The U.S. drought is a growing problem that we must tackle head on. The farming industry is struggling to manage rising energy costs and restricted water supplies, while trying to decrease water waste and increase crop yields,” said CropX CEO Isaac Bentwich. “Our simple software service helps farmers easily grow more with less — and eliminates unnecessary water usage.”
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