New technology is allowing new levels of efficiency throughout the agriculture value chain.Smart farming tech includes smart machinery like robots, software solutions for crop management, and drones and satellites for land management and crop protection. Internet of Things (IoT) and big data advancements have strongly supported the evolution of smart farming and agricultural technologies have become increasingly crucial given steadily growing demand for food, despite limited availability of farm land, and rising labor costs.
Platforms that connect farmers to consumers are receiving increasing attention: Startups report attractive business performance during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Steward launched an online service during April 2020, digitally connecting farmers to the market.
CiBO Technologies launched CIBO Impact, a marketplace to buy and sell carbon credits, in October 2020.
In April 2020, AgriSync introduced a program offering new customers its service at a discounted rate of USD 100 per month.
Farmers Business Network Inc (FBN) made membership free for all farmers in September 2020. As a result, the company claims it registered a 42% increase in new members during 2020.
ProducePay saw almost 99% YoY revenue growth in 2020.
Arable reported 300% growth in sales during the third quarter of 2020.
Successful Funding Rounds Hint at Sector Confidence:
FBN raised USD 250 million in series F funding in August 2020.
Arable raised USD 20 million in funding in October 2020 for expanding its business into Brazil.
Taranis raised USD 30 million in series C funding in July 2020.
Investment in Robotics Reflects Farmers’ Need for Labor:
According to data from Dealroom, funding for startups in the agricultural robotics and automation sector grew by almost 40% from 2019 to August 2020.
Crop monitoring and analytics software solution providers account for more than one-third of our list of disruptors and incumbents. The majority of these startups were established after 2014 and are at early or growth stages of product development and customer acquisition. These players have attracted total funding in the range of USD 200-300 million.
Marketplace operators account for only a small portion of our list of disruptors. Two key players in this segment, Farmers Business Network and Produce Pay, have attracted the most amount of funding—in the USD 900 million - 1.1 billion range. These startups connect participants across the agriculture value chain to streamline the farming process. Startups providing smart machinery such as agricultural robots and autonomous tractors closely follow, having received accumulated funding in the range of USD 600-800 million.
Most smart farming startups focus across the entire agriculture value chain and appear to be at the early or growth stages. The startups have mostly passed the prototype stage and have launched their product attracting a customer base. In addition, startups in the seed stage, such as Foodful and AgriSync, are in the early growth stage with products that are ready to use.
Software solution providers who aim to serve across the entire value chain enabling precise decision-making form the majority of the startups. Even those players that produce smart equipment like drones (UAV IQ) or autonomous tractors (Kray Technologies) focus on software and development of a platform for farm management. Precision agriculture is even a priority for players that focus on conserving water through the agriculture process, such as SWIIM Systems. Machine learning and AI are being increasingly adopted for this purpose. Startups like Farm Lead, which focus on creating a marketplace for farmers are exceptions.
Founded in 2017, AppHarvest is a US-based, publicly listed agri-tech company that uses robotics and AI to help indoor farmers make precise and smart farming decisions. The company’s services include integrated pest management, robotic harvesting, and precise yield prediction. The company has quickly expanded its services by partnering with Mastronardi, one of the largest producers and distributors of greenhouse-grown produce in North America. This has helped the company reach leading grocers such as Walmart, Whole Foods, and Kroger—all of which aim to increase domestically sourced farm produce.
In April 2021 the company acquired startup Root AI for USD 60 million. Root AI manufactures intelligent robots to ease the farming process. The company’s Virgo robot uses machine learning and AI to facilitate intelligent motion and real-time detection. AI systems allow the robots to identify plants and decide if they are ripe, spoiled, or growing. The robots are also equipped with 3D sensors which guide them—even through tangled vineyards—and identify ripe fruits. These robots are deployed primarily at indoor farms, which the company sees as a growing trend within the agriculture industry. A patent for its technology is still pending and the company has conducted tests in the US, Canada, and the Netherlands.
The key differentiator of Root AI’s robots is that they can be used for any type of crop, unlike most agricultural robot companies that produce robots for an individual crop. According to AppHarvest, Virgo will be instrumental to the company’s robotic harvesting growth. More specifically, AppHarvest is focused on the amount of data that Virgo can collect, which can be used to analyze crop health, optimize agricultural operation, and precisely predict yield.
Crops Monitoring & Analytics:
Most incumbents in the industry are players established in providing hardware and software solutions solely to the agriculture industry. These companies have been quick to adopt smart farming precision techniques and big data analytics.
Some companies, such as Trimble and John Deere, serve industries beyond agriculture, which may better enable them to provide their products and services throughout the agricultural value chain rather than simply focusing on a particular segment.
The industry is also seeing software-oriented companies with backgrounds in artificial intelligence and big data including NVIDIA, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM use their expertise to enter the Smart Farming market.
Incumbents that have had a head start on growth and expansion through in-house development are now also partnering with or acquiring startups with the potential to expand product reach. Newcomers like Amazon and NVIDIA are also following this trend.
No investor data is available