SWIIM System is one of two agtech startups represented at Western Growers Innovation and Technology Center in Salinas, CA, that made the Forbes top 25 agtech startups.
As originally published by Tom Leyde, for the Salinas Californian, July 10, 2017
Agtech provides food for thought
The number of agtech startups continues to grow. That means new and better tools for the ag industry to produce more and better crops.
Last month Forbes Magazine announced its list of the top 25 agtech startups at its annual Agtech Summit in Salinas. The startups’ specialties range from crop tracking and shelf life extension to satellite imaging and soil pathogen detection.
Two of the top Forbes 25 are represented at the Western Growers Innovation and Technology Center is Salinas, which has 37 startups represented. They are SWIIM, coming it at number 23, and Trace Genomics, coming it at number 25.
Trace Genomics helps growers increase yields by identifying microbes and other biological data in the soil. The company’s technology has been used by the Western Growers Association and Driscoll. It has raised $4 in capital.
SWIIM (Sustainable Water and Innovative Irrigation Management) offers a sustainable water and irrigation management system that monitors water budgets and computes data. It helps large water users, such as farms and utility companies better manage water usage. The company has worked with the Western Growers Association and Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District.
Here are all 25 top agtech startups on the Forbes list:
1. AgCode: This vineyard management company helps winegrowers track harvests, field conditions and grape maturity in order to maximize yields and manage labor. Oenophiles are on board: seven of the country’s top 10 wineries use AgCode’s technology. Ag cred: in February, scored an undisclosed investment from Cavallo Ventures, the VC arm of Wilbur-Ellis.
2. AGERpoint: This startup produces nut and citrus orchard management software that uses satellite data. The data is granular enough to provide tree-specific information, like the size of the canopy or the trunk diameter. The company expects to break-even in 2017 with $3 million in sales. Ag cred: Has raised nearly $9 million at a valuation of about $30 million.
3. Arvegenix: Former Monsanto executives lead this startup, which is developing a new cash-crop called pennycress that can be added to field rotations between corn and soybeans. The winter cover crop protects the soil from erosion and soaks up nitrogen pollution — and makes money for farmers. Ag cred: Monsanto Ventures led the last funding round.
4. BluWrap: Using a patented oxygen management technique that extends the shelf life of fresh protein, BluWrap allows fresh protein suppliers to ship by ocean rather than by air, saving on costs. Ag cred: Anterra Capital, the international food and ag growth VC, is an investor in the company, which has raised $18.6 million.
5. Bovcontrol: This livestock manager is helping cattle farmers keep better track of their herds using cloud technology. Bovcontrol tracks inventory, vaccinations, nutrition needs and more. Ag cred: The company’s software is used by farmers on every continent (except Antarctica).
6. BrightFarms: The demand for hyper-local produce is booming, and BrightFarms is building and operating greenhouses in urban and suburban areas. The company partners with supermarkets like Giant, ACME, and Pick-n-Save and puts the farm at or near the store to maximize produce freshness. Ag cred: The company has raised $57.9M in equity to date.
7. Clear Labs: This science startup is making a database of the world’s food supply by studying food on a molecular level. The goal is to use the information to help food retailers pick the best suppliers and avoid the next crippling food-borne illness outbreak. Ag cred: Per Pitchbook, has $21.2 million in funding; investors include Khosla Ventures and GV.
8. CropX: An Israeli startup, CropX sells cloud-based software which aims to boost crop yields by focusing on saving water and energy. With in-field sensors, the system automatically delivers the correct amount of water to each plant instead of watering a whole field at a time. Ag cred: Founded in 2013, the company has raised $10 million.
9. Farmer’s Edge: A hardware and software product that uses satellite imagery and precision technology to help growers identify, map and manage farmland variability. Ag cred: To date, the startup has raised $94.3 million in funding.
10. Farmer’s Business Network: This big data company connects over 3,400 small farms with open data about yields, supply prices and other information that lets them compete with large operations. Ag Cred: Raised over $83 million in funding from the likes of GV and Double Bottom Line Partners.
11. FarmLead: An online marketplace for grain, FarmLead lets grain growers expand beyond their local market and sell to the best bidders. Buyers and sellers can register for free, and deals are negotiated anonymously. Ag cred: Monsanto Growth Ventures led their Series A.
12. FoodLogiQ: The average food recall costs companies $10 million. FoodLogiQ aims to reduce those costs by using data to track a supply chain (i.e, food) from the farm to the fork, ensuring the correct foods are recalled. Ag cred: Works with more than 3,500 food companies, including Whole Foods, Subway, and Chipotle.
13. Full Harvest: 20 billion pounds of “ugly” produce go to waste in the U.S. each year. Full Harvest is trying to reduce that waste by building a B2B marketplace where growers can connect with food companies to offload surplus or imperfect produce. Ag cred: Won the Innovation Award at United Fresh, one of the biggest produce conferences in the U.S.
14. Granular: Big retailers stay nimble with the help of data-driven software to help them track everything. Granular’s software does this for farmers, allowing them to prioritize their workforce, monitor profitability, forecast revenues and more. Ag Cred: Raised over $24 million in capital from likes of Andreessen Horowitz, Tao Capital Partners and Khosla Ventures.
15. Mavrx: This startup’s software allows farmers to visualize their entire fields in an instant, highlighting areas where resources need to be directed and benchmarking crop performance. Ag Cred: Have raised over $22 million from the likes of Bloomberg Beta, Crosslink Ventures and more.
16. mOasis: mOasis is making a non-toxic gel-like soil additive that helps seeds get farther on less water. It works by holding extra water near a plant’s roots and releasing it as the soil dries out. Ag cred: a field test from UC Davis found the product provided 30 percent yield increase for broccoli, using 25 percent less water.
17. Produce Pay: Founded at Cornell University in 2014, this supply chain startup aims to fix cash-flow problems by paying for the product the day after it is shipped, rather than the typical 30 – 45 day waiting period. Ag cred: Its total funding is $13.4 million from the likes of CoVenture and Menlo Ventures, along with $70 million in debt financing.
18. RipeIO: Former financiers are bringing blockchain technology to the food supply chain. Its algorithms crunch data to calculate sustainability scores, as well as scores for spoilage and safety levels. Ag cred: Joined the first cohort of the Terra Accelerator, backed by Rabobank, RocketSpace and Nestle USA.
19. S4: Argentina-based precision ag company with a fintech side that pays producers or companies along the supply chain when systemic risks like drought or flood occur. The startup expects $2 million in revenue by the end of the year. Ag cred: Raised $3.5 million ahead of its series A.
20. Sample6: Sample6 claims to be “the world’s fastest food pathogen detection system” by detecting a bug within 6 hours. Its products can detect pathogens and listeria in plants. Ag cred: Has raised more than $30 million from the likes of Campbell Soup’s VC Acre Venture Partners and Sam Kass, the former policy adviser and personal chef to President Barack Obama.
21. Spensa Technologies: Its software lets farmers record, upload and track observations about their fields; its Z-Trap hardware allows farmers to track pests in the fields by trapping and identifying bug species. Ag Cred: Developed hardware with a National Science Foundation grant; has raised over $5 million in outside funding to date.
22. Strider: A Brazil-based ranch management startup that sells a pest monitoring application which allows farmers to monitor and decide how to treat infestations. Ag cred: Has raised $5 million from the likes of Qualcomm Ventures.
23. SWIIM: The patented process behind SWIIM, or Sustainable Water and Innovative Irrigation Management, monitors water budgets and computes data. This allows a large-scale water user, like a farm or a utility company, to better manage usage. Ag cred: Partners include Western Growers Association and Southern CA’s Metropolitan Water District.
24. Terviva: An Oakland-based company that is cultivating the pongamia tree, which is native to Australia and India, on American soil. The trees produce an oilseed with 10 times more yield than soybeans and have the potential to create a biofuel alternative. Ag cred: Company is valued at $32 million after raising about $15 million.
25. Trace Genomics: It’s 23andMe for soil health: using machine learning and genomics testing, Trace Genomics can ID microbes and other biological data in soil, helping farmers maximize yields. Ag Cred: It’s raised $4 million to develop their technology and has worked with big ag concerns like the Western Growers Association and Driscoll.