Spensa Technologies Inc., a precision ag startup, received $1.3 million from multiple investors and venture programs to further develop an online pest management program, an electronic insect trapping device and to expand its business capabilities.
"We currently have a strong niche market in five continents around the globe, but we are ready to expand our brand and market share across the board," said Johnny Park, president and CEO of Spensa and a Purdue research assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering. "This funding will enable us to hire sales reps in targeted areas such as California, and help us create strategic marketing partnerships in Australia, Brazil and other locations."
The funding and sources for this round are $300,000 from Elevate Ventures, an Indiana-based nonprofit to help entrepreneurs and emerging startups; $200,000 from the Foundry Investment Fund, a Purdue fund managed by the Purdue Foundry that matches outside investors' funds; $300,000 from Terra Ventures LLC in Boston; $300,000 from Zionsville Precision Ag Venture LLC; and $200,000 from John T. Smith and other private investors.
Spensa has previously received $1.2 million in funding and was named the top company in the 2013 BioCrossroads New Venture Competition. The company is located in the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette, and has received startup assistance through Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.
"Last year we had 24 startups created from Purdue innovations, and Spensa Technologies is a perfect example of how a Purdue-based company has taken an innovation and worked diligently and successfully over the past few years to move its technology to the public," said Greg Deason, vice president and executive director of Purdue Foundry.
Spensa is launching a new scouting app called OpenScout that helps growers and crop advisers easily record scouting notes and photos as they walk in their fields. Spensa also upgraded its online pest management program called MyTraps that tracks insect populations to better control crop damage caused by pests and reduce the amount of insecticides released into the environment. A third product by Spensa is the Z-Trap, an insect trapping device that automatically counts the number of targeted insects and sends the data remotely to a mobile phone or computer.
"Automatic insect data collection is one of the fastest growing fields in precision agriculture because it helps growers and consultants make more educated pest management decisions," Park said. "It is a big business. In the U.S. in 2010, crop growers lost $20 billion to insect damage and spent $4.5 billion on insecticides."
Spensa’s software products are available as an online subscription service through OpenScout.ag and MyTraps.com.
These online applications can be used to collect pest data affecting any crops including apples, oranges, pears, grapes, corn and soybeans. They also store data over time so growers and crop advisors can identify high-level trends on a per-pest basis across all of the fields they manage and analyze past data while planning for future growing seasons.
"We are currently working to expand the use of Z-Trap to collect and monitor data on a broader spectrum of insects," Park said.