Brazil’s SP Ventures looks north to back Canadian machinery manager Verge Ag

March 11, 2021

One of a farmer’s biggest assets is their machinery and equipment. During busy seasons, it can be hard to keep track of which piece is where, whether it is functioning at optimum levels, and who needs to use it and when.

Canada’s Verge Ag is hoping to take some of the head-scratching out of machinery management with its software service, Launch Pad.

“Farmers have been dealing with this problem for generations. It started as figuring out how to get more acres out of a new diesel tractor that just showed up, or out of a team of horses, and evolved to figuring out whether I should adopt GPS and if it is going to increase my productivity to now using the existing machinery tech to be fullest of its capability,” Wilson Acton, Verge Ag’s chief commercial officer, tells AFN.

The Calgary-based startup today announced funding from São Paulo’s SP Ventures and existing investor Fall Line Capital. Further financial details were not disclosed.

“We have been watching and getting to know the Verge Ag team since they began serving the Latin American market last year,” said Ariadne Caballero, Managing Partner of SP Ventures. “We are eager to become part of Verge Ag’s future, and to support the Verge Ag team in the region. This is a group that has made a lot of progress in a short period of time with their differentiated approach to solving some of the biggest problems facing arable farming today.”

Servicing farms of different sizes across the world, Launch Pad helps farmers and their machines with tasks such as deciding the best path for planting to avoid soil erosion, testing different degrees of approach, and figuring out how to avoid overlap. As long as a farmer has a field boundary, she can use Launch Pad to begin simulating many different operations in that field and comparing the outcomes.

Using APIs, it can be integrated with original equipment manufacturers’ software – allowing farmers to push their Launch Pad plans directly to their machines.

“We’ve got farmers in Western Canada who, during the 2020 harvest alone, saw a 13% increase in productivity for every machine during every hour it was operating. That translated on one particular farm to $61,000 of operating cost savings,” Acton says.

“All we did was take their existing equipment and plan the best way for it to go about executing what it needs to do.”

To date, farmers have mainly answered questions about machinery optimization through never-ending strings of phone calls, texts, and emails , according to Acton. Launch Pad has streamlined and replaced much of that, he claims.

“One of the feedback items we get is that all of a sudden the radio, headset, or cell phone is so quiet it’s almost eerie. Instead of one person taking the lead and acting as central command communicating with everyone, all of those decisions are already made in Launch Pad.”

“Every operator has one plan, so you don’t have two people doing two different things creating inefficiencies.”

Launch Pad is designed to be usable for different skill levels and supports a number of languages. For Latin American markets, Verge Ag translated it into the local lingo – even adding in common jargon that farmers use across the region.

The startup will use the fresh funding for further development of Launch Pad and expanding its presence throughout the Americas. It already operates on about 600,000 acres in Canada, Finland, and Latin American countries – with many of these acres falling under multi-year contracts through its software-as-a-service subscription model.

As for challenges, keeping up with growth is at the top of the list. While some startups struggled under the pressures of Covid-19, the pandemic has acted as an accelerator for Verge Ag, says Acton.

“Our ability to scale effectively relies on online engagement by potential customers. Covid-19 is forcing a little disruption when it comes to relying on face-to-face conversation.”

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