Major investment to build Farmers Edge’s data power

(FarmersEdge.ca)

Canadian precision agronomy and farm data management firm Farmers Edge plans to keep taking its services to previously underserved acres around the world, with a major cash infusion from a group of its backers.

Japanese commodities trading and investment firm Mitsui, Toronto commercial real estate company Osmington and the Green Growth Fund operated by investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers announced Wednesday they’ll jointly invest $58 million in the Winnipeg company.

The three companies will get equity stakes on top of their previous holdings in Farmers Edge, and Kenji Otake, a general manager with Mitsui’s information technology (IT) division, will join the company’s board of directors. Farmers Edge declined to say how much equity, percentage-wise, goes to the three firms.

Farmers Edge said the investment will go toward expansion of its data science team and its engineering group for new product development, and to finance further expansions into South America, Australia and Eastern Europe, noting Brazil’s Mato Grosso region and New South Wales in Australia.

“As we move into this next high-growth period, we will continue to expand into lucrative markets like the U.S., as well as Russia, Australia and Brazil, where our field-centric approach to predictive modelling is generating high yields even in data-sparse regions,” company CEO Wade Barnes said in a release.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to bring the precision agriculture movement to the largest broadacre markets in the world, creating a new generation of breadbasket regions in previously untapped land.”

Between software and hardware development, the company has hired about 40 people in the past 12 months and will likely double that in the next year, Barnes said in an interview.

Mitsui’s Otake, in the same release, said Farmers Edge has been demonstrating “its ability to operate in regions like Brazil, that lack traditional infrastructure to support technology-enabled agriculture” — an important ability for a company such as Mitsui, whose commodities business procures 17.5 million tons of grains, oilseeds and other “food resources” per year.

In Brazil alone, Farmers Edge said Wednesday, “there are nearly one billion acres of arable land that represent a significant and largely untapped market opportunity, primed for increased agricultural productivity.”

Farmers Edge, Barnes said, has shown it can operate not only in “data-rich” environments, but in relatively “data-sparse” environments — and not only overseas. Jurisdictions such as Saskatchewan and the Dakotas have far smaller troves of publicly generated soil and climate data, he said, compared to states such as Iowa and Minnesota, where the company has also recently opened offices.

The company also plans to expand its services eastward in Canada, he said, noting Ontario’s cropland, for example, is relatively data-rich compared to the Prairies but data-sparse compared to parts of the U.S.

In North America, he said, Farmers Edge is considered the “viable alternative” among just a handful of companies that provide such services at the field level — as agribusiness giants such as Deere, DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto, through its takeover of Climate Corp. in 2013, have staked claims in the same space.

Such companies’ investments and continued interest in farm data show its value, he said, as they look for ways to boost farmer productivity and reduce environmental impact. — AGCanada.com Network

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