Originally seen on www.agfundernews.com.
Agriculture is seeing a revolution of a different kind. While Silicon Valley is still the tech Mecca, the agriculture industry is seeing technology pour into its fields, through the crop rows and machinery. The AgTech industry has brought in $100M in the last year, which amounts to the same amount as highly sought after transportation tech startups like Uber and Lyft. So what are the biggest sectors of agtech, and what do we expect to see blow up in the next year? We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 Ag Tech sectors to watch below.
You’ve heard about drone technology taking off, but you may not have heard that ag is expected to be the #1 industry for the “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” or UAVs. Drones can be used in several ways—for direct observation of crops, mapping areas of land, and aerial spraying. The drone industry has been growing so rapidly that the FAA has been pushed to meet demands for new drone regulations in order to make the US more drone-friendly like Japan and Canada. Just last week, the Senate held a hearing to discuss US drone regulations.
Regardless of the slow up-take of drone-friendly regs, investment and demand has flown. TechCrunch reported that the drone company, Pocket Drones, got $50,000 in pledges overnight. Some other companies to watch include:
- PrecisionHawk, a company that raised $1M in seed funding last year. Their claim to fame is their drone’s “plug-and-play” and “field-swappable” capability, which allows for a simple swapping of sensors without reconfiguration.
- Volt Aerial Robotics, a company that is designed to help smaller companies and organizations determine what kind of drone best fits their applications. We talked to CEO Rory Paul a few months ago and got to see their Quadcopter. Check out their video below.
- Blue River, a company that received $3M from Kholsa Ventures in 2012. They’ve got a bot that can actually detect what kind of plant it’s looking at. Talk about a smart bot.
2. DATA SYSTEMS
There’s a lotta data to manage in agriculture—air temps, water use, evaporation, seed times, harvest times, yields, acerage, and more. Out of the data has emerged a lot of farmer frustration, and a huge need for management systems. “[Farmer’s] are tired of juggling different systems,” Lance Donny, CEO of OnFarm data systems told AgFunder in an interview. “You’re in a truck trying to figure out if you’re going to irrigate tomorrow or the next day…. We use data and information, and we process that for the grower.”
Companies to watch in data systems include:
- Fameron, a company that actually logs a farmer’s data about their cattle. The company provides means a way to keep track of your cow flow, your cash flow, and even the nutritional value of the milk you’re producing. In 2012 they raised $1.4M seed capital from both individuals and VC firms.
- AgSquared, a software company designed for record keeping for small farmers. With planning, management and recording keeping components, AgSquared is an app that helps the small farmer keep track of their fields that are most likely too small for industrial-sized tracking. Just this month, they have raised $1.5M in their Venture Round.
- 640 Labs, a company that uses a “640 drive” that collects data from a common API to allow anyone collecting and analyzing data to share on the same interface. They have thought about everything down to the user-interface, making the device Bluetooth accessible with a mini-SD card slot and cross-brand capable.
3. FOOD TECH
Food tech has been on more than just farmer’s minds, and the sector has been developing rapidly. With everything from 3D Food printers to replacing eggs, food tech has caught the eye of big investors. Companies to watch in Food Tech:
- Hampton Creek Foods, a company looking to replace the conventional egg with a plant-based egg substitute. We caught up with CEO Josh Tetrick a few weeks ago; see the video below.
- Beyond Meat, a company aiming to become the world’s leading provider of plant protein products.
- Henlight, a company that has tech that uses LEDs to have highly productive hens. Check out a video about them here.
4. WATER SAVERS
- According to the UN, almost half the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030. Ag Tech will be a substantial contributor to saving water, and there have been some clever solutions. Many companies are looking toward precision ag techniques—that is, direct application of water to a plant’s rather than a general area.
Companies to watch in the water sector:
- Tal-Ya, an Israeli company that has patented a polypropelyne tray that covers the plant’s root system. The tray distributes water and fertilizer directly to the plant root, and protects the earth around the root from weeds and extreme temperatures.
- Silver Bullet, a company that has two products—one that treats agricultural water to make it safe for livestock to drink, and another that safely conditions cooling tower water better and faster than conventional chemical systems without the use of toxic chemicals.
- Livestock Water Recycling, a company that has patented a system that turns waste into useable water. The system economically captures and concentrates valuable nutrients from manure, while recycling clean water.
5. WASTE MANAGEMENT
A lot is wasted in our current system. Everything from food in our fridges to food on the fields, there is a lot of potential to start saving Here are some companies to watch that are looking to change waste into wealth:
- BioGill, a company that treats wastewater by focusing on using natural recyclers like bacteria and fungi.
- Food Cowboy, a startup that is redirecting food that might go to waste to the homeless.
- CropMobster, a company focused on getting food that is not being used into the hands of folks that would use it. We featured CropMobster just a few months ago. Check out their video below.
FEATURED PHOTO: Exploratorium.edu