The five selected startups represent a broad spread of farm tech and supply chain technologies from across the continent: Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Argentina. The cohort also represents a spread of different ag sectors including livestock, row crops, and high-value crops. The accelerator group received 90 applications over a 6-month application process, which was 30% more than the first cohort. Startups from Brazil and Argentina made up the majority of applicants, and precision ag solutions represented 40%, which was not surprising; many startups I met this week were developing digital farmtech tools.
But there also seemed to be more startups offering solutions for the supply chain compared to last year and that was reflected in the Yield Lab’s data; supply chain tech represented the second biggest category, and The Yield Lab company I thought had the most differentiated business fits into that category.
Circular out of Argentina was founded by mathematician Andrés Augspach (who coincidentally has a fantastic British English accent!) and is aiming to improve inefficiencies in the logistics and transportation of grain from farm to port. With a background in chat bots, the company is developing a simple and easy-to-use tool for drivers to communicate with their clients on both ends of the chain to help digitise a process that still relies on paper and pen. Augspach told me that drivers can spend more time waiting for paperwork or for a space in a port than they are driving, and that inefficiency is highlighted in the cost, which is 60% more in Argentina to move one ton of grain in a truck than it does in the US. The business has raised $450k in funding so far. Find out more about them here.
Also in the supply chain category is Polynatural, Chile’s answer to Apeel Sciences. The shelf life enhancement technology is a unique natural extract and vegetable polymer obtained from by-products that forms a second natural skin on fruit. The leadership team told me its 10x cheaper than Apeel Sciences, is washable, has organic certification in Europe and the US, and does not require extra equipment to apply (they believe Apeel does but I haven’t had a chance to ask them yet). It’s currently working with the biggest Chilean nectarine exporter and a major apple exporter in South America.
Surprisingly, considering the size of the meat markets in many Latin American countries, few entrepreneurs are developing tools for the sector resulting in just 3.3% of YL LatAm’s applicants. But YL managed to find one for their cohort in Digi Rodeo, a cloud-based platform for livestock digitalization and traceability, from an animal health/one health perspective. The company has a patented, digital syringe to vaccinate livestock and capture information that’s stored in the cloud. This can help the farmer to track his activities and provide traceability to customers. The company is in the early stages of building further functionality and software and has raised $250k so far.
Picked from a large group of precision ag tools was SpaceAg, the most developed startup in the cohort with $1 million in funding already. SpaceAg is a software platform using data from drones, satellites and ground sensors for yield monitoring and forecasting in high-value crops out of Peru. For the YL team, this focus on specialty crops was particularly appealing. The growing number of digital offerings across the globe is likely “to lead to one big integration,” said Tomas Pena from The Yield Lab. “So anything specialised that can integrate elsewhere is important as we see agtech in general very skewed to extensive crops but not so much high-value crops.”
Last but definitely not least is Terra Magna from Brazil, a risk management cloud and mobile platform for agricultural operations. The product offers satellite crop monitoring throughout the crop season from pre-financing stage until it is ready for harvest. Using different sources of information like government official data, satellite imagery and field-collected data that powers FIDES system, the company provides an easier way for credit and loan providers to monitor the collateral “crop receipt” of agricultural loans. The founder told me how they’ve developed a report that can be used in court cases to prove what parts of a farm were harvested and which were not. Court cases between insurers and farmers are common in Brazil but YL thinks a similar logic of finding solutions to local problems could be applied in other parts of the world. The company has raised $500k to date.