The Future of Agriculture, Part Two: Software, Disintermediation, and the Sharing Economy
The THINK&ACT series, a production of FABERNOVEL and PARISOMA, aims to bridge the gap between startups and large organizations. It explores the cutting-edge of industry, tech and design. From the future of driving, to the shared city and big data advertising, we gather industry trailblazers to share their stories, demo their products and engage with our diverse community. THINK&ACT is a celebration of the progress industries have made and inspiration for the future.
Join us on Thursday, October 1st (6:30pm-9pm), as we celebrate the success of the agriculture startup economy with a night of demos and rich conversation with thought leaders shaping the way we grow our crops, tend our land, and care for our environment.
Software Makes Farmers' Lives Easier and Optimizes Farm Decisions
Following the interest of venture capital firms in AgTech applications over the past five years, an increasing number of startups have launched software-based products to help farmers optimize farm management. Granular spun off from Solum when the latter was acquired by Climate Corporation; based in San Francisco, Granular provides growth modeling tools, inventory tracking, and profitability/costs monitoring. Farmers can use the platform to create reports for landowners, insurance, and lending partners. Farmeron, another startup in the farm management space, takes a more specialized approach targeting the dairy industry. Since launching in 2012, Farmeron has raised $4m with their strong value proposition: the “Google analytics for the dairy farm.” Farmeron's product offers milk quality monitoring, feeding/fertility/health recommendations, and even accounting support. Farmeron's plug-and-play product has a low barrier to entry, making them well-positioned to capture a large and underserved market. We'll see Granular and Farmeron demo at THINK&ACT on October 1.
Farm management is not the only software opportunity in agriculture. In addition to the startups we profiled in Part I - whose software tools are complimented by hardware components like moisture sensors, or focused on the processing of big data - several more specialized startups presenting at THINK&ACT: The Future of Farming. FarmLogs offers satellite imagery for change recognition, rain fall, heat accumulation, field-specific soil maps, yield data import for visualization, inputs simulation, and growth stage analysis. The company raised over $10M in venture capital, has offices in San Francisco and Michigan, and has been adopted by 50,000 farmers across all 50 states, representing $12 billion in crops under management. Given all of this, it's no surprise that their market share skyrocketed from 5% to 15% of US farmers in the first half of 2015. We are very excited also to welcome Fruition Sciences, an online decision tool for winemakers and grape-growers who wish to optimize vineyard management and improve wine quality and yield. With real-time data, advanced analytics and decision tools, their product might make a tremendous impact on the way vineyards from California to Europe make decisions.
The Sharing Economy Fits Farms as Well as Cities
Sharing practices have started to appear in the US agricultural landscape. We were pleased to host several startups working on the distribution side of the food chain at our June Think&Act: The Future of Food. As we turn our attention not just to consumer habits but the source of our food, we're pleased once again to welcome startups working on distribution solutions that attempt to short-circuit legacy systems. GoodEggs, which recently re-centered its activities in San Francisco, is a platform for consumers to buy directly from producers. The information economy has helped to spur the interest of urban areas for the farm world. From didactical platforms like LocalFoodLabs to urban farming companies like Farmscape, new practices have started to appear as awareness has grown in urban areas.
The sharing economy has spread to agriculture as well, with the emergence of regional equipment-sharing networks. Maine Farmland Trust launched “Shared-Use Farm Equipment,” an initiative whereby farmers can pay an annual $100 fee and get access to different pieces of equipment with co-ownership. The same principle is being applied to new types of equipment, as well: a San-Francisco based societal enterprise called Calso is taking a new approach to drones: They build a new model (called drones4good) in which unemployed veterans learn how to fly UAVs, and then farmers can get on-demand sky-vision and metrics about the amount of water in their fields. This is a good example of technology and sharing practices merging into something useful, especially in a place where the drought is as intense as California.
One of the most promising (and probably least obvious) projects in the area of sharing practices for the farming space is Farmers Business Network, a platform for identifying good practices by collecting data from farmers and building models. The company raised $15M from KPCB and Google Ventures. Their product provides a farmer-to-farmer data sharing platform, which aggregates and normalizes data nationwide from connected equipment and outside data like weather data and soil conditions. Data aggregated can come from 35 different types of farming software (already present in the farmer’s tractor’s cab). By sharing such data, farmers can discover good practices regarding fertilizer, seed types, and numerous other things.
At PARISOMA, we are deeply interested in the way our farmers are going to handle an ever-increasing demand while maintaining a sustainable approach. At THINK&ACT: The Future of Farming, you'll have an opportunity to meet first hand with some of the entrepreneurs who empower today’s farmers, across many fields and technologies. We hope to see you there!