By Louisa Burnwood-Taylor
Farmers Business Network (FBN), a farmer-to-farmer digital network offering data insights, input procurement, and crop marketing services, has raised $110 million in Series D funding.
FBN is one of just a few farmtech startups that have raised rounds larger than $100 million: vertical farming group Plenty and biological inputs startup Indigo are two recent examples. This latest round brings FBN’s total fundraising to $200 million.
The round attracted new, lead investment from two large institutional investors: global asset management firm T. Rowe Price and Singapore state fund Temasek. These lead investors typically invest in later stage, private equity deals, highlighting how far FBN has come since its founding three years ago, argues Charles Baron, cofounder and VP of product.
“These are blue chip investors who are investing in the growth and proven track record FBN has built,” he told AgFunderNews. “We’ve built a phenomenally high-growth business with membership doubling year-on-year to nearly 5,000 farms around the US across 16 million acres, taking on another million acres each month.”
To put this in perspective, there are about 50,000 large-scale farms growing commodity crops like corn and soy in the US where FBN has focused most of its attention.
Existing investors Acre Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, GV (Google Ventures) and DBL Partners also participated in the round.
The company has grown in other ways too: its input procurement business has expanded from selling 170 products initially to over 1,200, it launched a crop marketing business earlier this year, it is expanding into Canada, and its team is now 200-strong, with plans to increase by another 100 in the next 12-18 months.
This growth puts an exit for the founders and investors in FBN in the cards within the next few years, and while most agrifood tech startups plan to exit their businesses through a trade sale to one of the large agrifood corporates, FBN has always planned to remain an independent company, according to Baron.
“We’d like to be a public company that farmers can invest in; that’s the best way for us to realize the vision of an independent company,” he said, adding that a public listing and IPO is likely in the next two to five years.
FBN last raised funding in March of this year with a $40 million Series C and raised the Series D preemptively “to capitalize on its new businesses, particularly crop marketing,” according to Baron.
The company will use the latest proceeds to build out this crop marketing platform with the intention of enabling buyers from all over the globe to buy directly from US farmers.
“This is where an online, digital network can be so transformational; now a food company from anywhere in the world can work with FBN and the best farms in America to avoid going through multiple middlemen,” said Baron. “It also allows farmers to use data to market their crop better, yield them better prices, but also bring them production contracts in advance so that they can know their price and costs before the season has even started to a much greater level of detail.”
FBN will also provide them with cash advances for working capital, “taking the risk with them” said Baron.
FBN has hundreds of thousands of acres under contract for the 2018 growing season, according to Baron.
FBN serves farmers growing 25 different crops across 42 states. The majority still grow the major commodity crops, corn, soy, and wheat, but the company’s footprint is growing in large specialty crops like lentils, and chickpeas as well as orchard crops and vegetables on the west coast, according to Baron.
The company’s offering is slightly different for these farmers as they aren’t capturing the same data from machinery as the broadacre farmers are; it’s more focused on pricing intelligence and input benchmarking, according to Baron.
FBN will also use the proceeds of this round to expand into Canada where it’s opening offices shortly. New territories globally are also in the pipeline, and with investment from Singapore’s Temasek, it’s likely Asia will be a target in the medium term.