A recent round of angel funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ Green Growth Fund has Canadian-based precision ag outfit FarmersEdge looking southbound, says CEO Wade Barnes.
“Our current focus is to use this funding to expand our footprint by opening operational offices throughout the U.S.,” he says. “We’ve already secured space in Omaha and North Dakota and we’re currently looking at properties in Minnesota and Iowa.”
A portion of the funding will also be allocated directly to innovating the company’s precision ag service offerings, as it looks to strengthen both software (Farm Command) and the in-field weather stations that collect the field-centric data which FarmersEdge values so highly.
“Our focus as a company is collecting very accurate, field-centric data and the weather stations play a big part in that,” says Barnes.
The end goal, according to Barnes, is producing predictive yield analysis data prior to harvest that can be used by the grower – or depending on the situation the retail agronomist – for basing in-season production decisions.
“We feel that (yield analysis data) is the weakest part of the whole precision ag chain right now,” he says. “In precision ag today you’re generally an agronomics or a hardware or a software company. We’re trying to roll all three into one (product).”
Actually, two products. The company’s two levels of precision ag offerings, Platinum Max ($8 per acre starting price point) and Ultra ($4), include leasing of the in-field weather stations (roughly one station per 2500 acres) and all data collection (via CAM ISOBUS plug system), storage and analysis to allow for variable rate applications, seeding data and a host of other capabilities. The main difference in the two levels of service is that with Platinum Max a grower gets annual soil sampling, while Ultra includes soil sampling every three years.
“It’s all about being able to make good, informed decisions on everything from seed varieties to equipment,” says Barnes. “For example say I am a grower that is looking at whether to purchase a Case IH or a Deere combine. From this kind of data I can know that one has better fuel efficiency, so now I don’t have to purchase based on color but what’s the best business decision for my farm.
“As farms continue to grow in scale they need help, in the form of information and data, making these same kinds of crucial decisions.”
Growers of all size can implement FarmersEdge according to Barnes, although larger growers are typically the target demographic.
“These types of tools are really effective for larger growers – the guys with 1,500-2,000 acres and up – we’ve found that many of these growers are seeking an independent voice/gatekeeper and they’ll feel more comfortable working with us than some of the larger multinationals,” he claims. “We’ve heard a lot of concerns around dealing with some of the large multinationals and data. Being equipment agnostic and independent from the large seed and fertilizer companies is a tremendous value to the growers we work with.”
FarmersEdge can be “white labeled,” meaning an ag retail operation without its own branded precision ag services offering can license the system as a “partner” and rebrand it as its own proprietary solution.
“Part of the reason for going to market in this fashion is that we have the technology, but most of the time the local retailers have the regional agronomy knowledge and the local seed varieties data that a system like this really needs to make a difference,” says Barnes.
Going forward, FarmersEdge has some intriguing cross-industry projects going on in South America, details of which are expected to follow in the near future.