As the buzz surrounding agtech continues to increase, companies that were previously unaware of their potential suitability for farming and food production are making their way toward the space. The Internet of Things (IoT) is showing particular promise when it comes to helping farmers digitalize nearly every aspect of their operations. As IoT continues to grow, companies are relying more and more on machine-to-machine communications to manage the mountains of data that they can now collect. Farms and agricultural producers are no exception.
Enterprise technology company Filament is developing products and services that can help companies harness the power of this interconnectivity by building a connected business, without also having to become an expert on network stacks, security, and scalability. The company recently closed a $5 million Series A round led by Bullpen Capital. A number of other big name investment firms joined the round, including Verizon Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Samsung Ventures, Digital Currency Group, Haystack, Working Lab Capital, Techstars, and a number of existing investors.
As Filament’s technology continues to develop, the company is seeing an increasing interest from the agricultural community.
“We have some pilot customers who are evaluating Filament for agricultural uses, though we’re not able to name them quite yet,” Filament chief executive Eric Jennings told AgFunderNews. “They are using Filament for non-traditional agriculture usage such as Controlled Environment Agriculture, and ocean-based agriculture. We are also in discussions with well-established companies in this industry who are interested in bring our technology into their ecosystem.”
Although designed to apply across a number of industries and modalities, Filament’s products could provide surefire solutions to farmers looking for faster and more user-friendly ways to digitalize their business. Filament’s products allow users to monitor the environment, support custom-made sensors, connect directly to mobile devices, and boast a wireless range of 10 miles.
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The technology also allows the user to deploy a secure, all-range wireless network in a matter of seconds and each tap can connect directly with a user’s phone, tablet, or computer. The taps also feature a built in USB port that can host sensors or other devices, making them compatible with a host of existing agtech products and services.
Considering that many farms sprawl for hundreds if not thousands of acres, this could draw a serious client base from the ag community.
AgFunderNews recently had the chance to catch up with Eric Jennings and ask him five questions about the recent funding and how Filament fits into the agtech picture.
What are a few of the ways that farmers can benefit from Filament’s technology?
Farmers can benefit from Filament’s technology in two key ways. First, the ability to monitor and measure operational infrastructure usage — water flow, chemical usage, farm equipment efficiencies — without having to purchase a large infrastructure upfront. Second, plugging Filament products into the diagnostic port of farm vehicles and machinery to track efficiency within a farm.
How is Filament’s technology different from its competitors and other sensor providers?
There are lots of sensor manufacturers, radio module providers, and cloud offerings within the IoT space. Where Filament really differs is around the operation of the devices themselves. To our knowledge, we are the first company to have built a completely decentralized IoT stack—meaning our products can operate autonomously. Additionally, Filament networks never require cloud connectivity, though they can utilize the cloud if necessary, and Filament products can automatically discover and interact with each other.
Our customers don’t require a large up-front payment to deploy them, as devices are paid for as needed, per month or per year, solving a large CapEx vs. OpEx issue many customers have with large deployments. Also, Filament devices can not only interact with each other, but they can transact value as well—paying each other directly for use of the device, or data generated from the device.With this decentralized stack, we are enabling entire new business markets of devices acting as autonomous actors in a marketplace—buying and selling their data.
How would you describe your experience with the recent funding round?
Like most funding rounds, they go pretty smoothly if you’re able to paint a compelling vision of the future, and are able to actually build the future being portrayed. I’m extremely proud of our team and the expertise they bring to the table to enable this decentralized future of connected devices that we strongly believe in.
How will Filament use the funding secured in this round?
It’s going towards the product development and building up our team to move into the market quickly.
What advice would you give startups looking to enter the agtech space?
From our research, agriculture is a very underserved market globally when it comes to technical penetration. In other words, there are a lot of opportunities to gain efficiency in agriculture through the use of modern technology. Of course, it’s also a very old industry, and as such, requires some key partners in order to successfully launch a new startup in the agricultural space.
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