Google Inc and two other venture capitalist companies are investing more than $15 million in a U.S. tech firm that helps farmers to maximize their crops after analyzing data gathered by new agricultural equipment which is then shared between growers.
Google Ventures, the technology giant’s venture capital branch, is in the lead of the fundraising process for the farm data startup called Farmers Business Network, FBN said on Tuesday.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Venture capitalists DBL Investors are also participating in the round, which aims to enable FBN to grow and expand its business way beyond the 17 states and the 16 crops it now covers, the company announced.
Founded only a year ago, Farmers Business Network wants to help farmers take more adequate decisions about crops after analyzing soil and weather information, but also other data collected by new sensor-laden farm equipment. The company can then offer recommendations on inputs such as fertilizer, seed, and chemicals.
“We offer real-world, Consumer Reports-like data. We can show farmers how seeds actually performed on farms, not how they performed in some university trials or in highly controlled seed company trials,” Charles Baron, co-founder and vice president of products at Farmers Business Network, explained in a telephone interview.
The Silicon Valley-based Farmers Business Network is not creating detailed planting prescriptions for farmers, but Baron mentioned that could happen sometime in the future.
Large agriculture companies like Monsanto Co and Deere & Co have been heavily investing in data analysis products but also offered increased attention to precision agriculture software, such as tools that aid farmers grow crops with more efficiency.
Investors like Google Ventures have also been paying good money to agriculture technology startups. In 2014 alone, more than $2.36 billion were raised across 264 financing deals, according to a yearly report by AgFunder.com.
The significant investments are arriving as farming profitability is expected to fall to the lowest level since 2007. Also, the U.S. farmers cut back on many inputs, such as fertilizer and also machinery in order to save money.
In 2011, Google Ventures and Khosla Ventures raised $42 million and invested it in WeatherBill, which later took the name The Climate Corporation. That firm was bought by Monsanto in 2013 for more than $1 billion.
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