Precision ag gets cash injection

Farmers Edge, which specializes in precision agriculture and farm data management, now has more funds to support its global expansion.

In late January, Mitsui & Co. and other backers announced an investment of C$58 million in the western Canadian company.

Mitsui is a Japanese firm with a market capitalization of more than US$20 billion.

Farmers Edge will use the money to develop new products and enlarge its operations in Brazil, Russia and Australia.

“There’s a huge shift underway in agriculture as technology continues to enable the digitization of farming,” said Brook Porter of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ Green Growth Fund, one of the companies investing in Farmers Edge.

“Reducing costs while also reducing environmental impact is more important than ever, and Farmers Edge is leading this transformation.”

Many western Canadian farmers think of Farmers Edge as a company with expertise in variable rate technology, but the firm has shifted focus to farm data management.

“Variable rate fertility is core to Farmers Edge,” said chief operations officer Patrick Crampton.

“However, the evolution in the past 18 months has been to bring in the ag data management component…. We are leveraging that ag data platform to provide a lower cost variable rate product.”

Farmers Edge is particularly interested in expanding its presence in Brazil.

“It’s the second largest ag market in the world. (It) is a very high priority for Farmers Edge,” said Crampton, who grew up on a farm near Manitou, Man.

“Our unique set of capabilities sets us apart in that market.”

The company is also penetrating the United States with sales and operating teams in nine states.

Farmers Edge announced its initial partnership with Mitsui & Co. last year. The arrangement is seen as an excellent fit for a company with global ambitions because Mitsui has 141 offices in 66 countries.

“Mitsui is responsible for the procurement of 17.5 million tons of food resources each year, including grains, corn and soybeans,” said Mitsui executive Kenji Otake, who will take a seat on the Farmers Edge board.

“As Farmers Edge demonstrates its ability to operate in regions like Brazil, that lack traditional infrastructure to support technology-enabled agriculture, our strategic alignment deepens.”

Expansion into Australia, Brazil and Russia will provide Farmers Edge with new sources of revenue and a foothold in the largest agricultural regions in the world. There is also the additional benefit of managing more agricultural information.

“The sheer volume of data you start to collect from different (parts) of the world,” Crampton said.

“Those insights, we believe, will ultimately add more value back to our customers…. I firmly believe there are learnings we can take from all of those geographies.”

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