Agritech Start-Ups Are Disrupting Farming

Financial Times writer Emiko Terazono reported yesterday that, “Hauling corn from field to silo on a truck, South Dakota farmer Chet Edinger is having a good harvest. The mood of the 53-year-old, who also farms soyabeans and wheat on more than 5,000ha of farmland, has been boosted this year by a corn seed recommended by Farmers Business Network, a digital platform dubbed as a ‘Google for farmers.’

“Mr Edinger planted a variety that he had ‘never tried and never heard of.’ Yet the gamble has given his farm ‘the best work we’ve [harvested] so far this year,’ he says.”

The FT article explained that, “An increasing number of US farmers are exploring alternative ways of purchasing seeds and chemicals as well as data and insights.

“With 7,000 members — accounting for 28m acres of farmland, about 3 per cent of the US total — FBN provides extensive crop, seed and other agronomic data, plus a marketing and ecommerce platform for grains, offering more price transparency for fertilisers and pesticides. It has in effect become a social media platform for the exchange of farming knowhow.”

Ms. Terazono indicated that, “Agritech is attracting a diverse range of investors. And large funding roundsFBN raised $110m last year and is now valued at $660m by Pitchbook, a data provider on private companies — are providing the foundation for the first wave of agritech start-ups with the potential to be valued at $1bn.

The single most important reason for this interest is innovation. It is not simply changing agriculture and food production, bringing in more transparency and new products as well as shortening supply chains — it is also offering investors such as SoftBank, Google and sovereign wealth funds a road map they recognise from other industries that have been transformed by technology.”

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