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Growing into the era of AgriTech.

Growing into the era of AgriTech.
August 7 2020

A growing world population and the need to do more with less were already driving innovation in agriculture. But the coronavirus pandemic added to the urgency.

It has exposed the fragility of the nation’s food supply chain, cut into trade forecasts, and illustrated the limitations of how America’s producers have always done things. Data-driven decision-making and environmental sustainability need to be the way forward.

Specifically, AgriTech is well-positioned to address two weakness in the current ecosystem exposed by the pandemic:

1. Labor shortages and inefficiency

US farms typically rely on seasonal migrant workers coming into the US to work for them each season. The work is manual and relies heavily on a seasonal workforce. Now that, due to COVID, farms have to contend with an even great labor shortage than before, the industry is paying additional attention to robotics and automation. 

As spring unfolds, many farms are ready for harvest but fear that their usual seasonal workforce won’t show up. Several pandemic-related factors like fear over the spread of the virus, shelter-in-place orders, and changes in immigration policy to curtail travel are creating uncertainty over whether there will be enough workers to make harvest happen. The government already stopped processing applications for the H2A temporary agricultural worker visa program.

2. Supply chain challenges:

Food waste is another challenge that’s ramping up during COVID-19. With restaurants, universities, and corporate offices closed, many farmers are left without a buyer, meaning a lot of food is going to waste before it has even left the farm. Redirecting food to grocery stores is not as simple as it sounds.

Colorado-based Food Maven sells high-quality local, oversupplied, and imperfect food from distributors, manufacturers, and producers to restaurants and institutional kitchens at a significant discount through an online marketplace. With food service demand plummeting, the startup had to think differently about its route-to-market.

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AgriTech Startups:

Indigo improves grower profitability, environmental sustainability, and consumer health through the use of natural microbiology and digital technologies. The company’s scientific discoveries and digital platforms benefit tens of thousands of growers across millions of acres. Working across the supply chain, Indigo is furthering its mission of harnessing nature to help farmers sustainably feed the planet. In 2019, Indigo established The Terraton Initiative, a global effort to draw down 1T tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide through agricultural soils.

Bowery Farming, a Google-backup agritech startup that most recently raised a Series B-1, focuses on growing eight types of leafy greens and is testing dozens of additional vegetables.  Bowery uses zero pesticides and 95% less water than a conventional farm. Part of what makes the company unique is its proprietary software, called BoweryOS, which uses machine learning to monitor plants as they grow. If a certain batch of lettuce needs less light or a cooler atmosphere, the software can adjust the conditions in the warehouse.

Arable is a startup that was building a connected device designed to help farmers manage their irrigation and improve crop yields. Its device — the Arable Mark — was launched in 2017. It contained sensors to measure rainfall, temperature, wind, humidity, and more so it can advise farmers when to water their fields.

Ceres Imaging is a farming solutions company that helps growers and farm advisors make proactive decisions using aerial imagery and data analytics. Backed by university-validated science, Ceres Imaging seamlessly transforms precise crop imagery into actionable insights that help growers maximize resources, yields, and profits. Ceres Imaging's team of experienced analysts, agronomists, and scientists is committed to giving farmers the power to solve with certainty. 

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Since last week, PrivCo has added:
1,407 Updated Companies | 189 M&A Deals185 Funding Activities

Funding & Deal Highlights:

Mile High Labs, a leading processer of hemp-derived cannabinoids, announces the close of a Series B equity financing round from renowned American entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria. This funding is a resounding vote of confidence in the Company and its longstanding position as an industry-leading manufacturer of trusted CBD products. The financing will be used to pay off existing debt and accelerate the development of its best-in-class manufacturing and formulations platform as global brands and big-box retailers begin to enter the CBD category.

SewerAI, a San Francisco, CA-based startup that uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to inspect, identify, and analyze sewer infrastructure defects before they reach catastrophic levels, secures $2M in seed funding.

Bryn Pharma, LLC, a Raleigh, N.C.-based pharmaceutical company, raises an additional $11M in financing. Participants in the round, which brought the total proceeds from the transaction to $26M, included existing and new funds, family offices, and private investors.

Mentor-guided online training platform Springboard raises $31M in a Series B round of funding led by Telstra Ventures.

Teladoc Health Inc. and Livongo Health Inc. agree to merge in a deal valued at $18.5B to create a company that can serve a spectrum of health needs, using virtual care.

PandaDoc, the startup that provides a fully digital sales document workflow from proposal to the electronic signature to collecting payment, announces a $30M Series B extension, making it the second such extension the company has taken since taking its original $15M Series B in 2017. The total for the three B investments is $50M.

Sight Diagnostics, the Israel-based health-tech company behind the FDA-cleared OLO blood analyzer, announces that it has raised a $71M Series D round with participation from Koch Disruptive Technologies, Longliv Ventures (which led its Series C round) and crowd-funding platform OurCrowd. With this funding, the company has now raised a total of $124M, though the company declined to share its current valuation.

Electric vehicle charging network ChargePoint raises $127M in funding in a bid to expand its platform for businesses and fleets in North America and Europe.

Thoma Bravo, a PE firm, has agreed to purchase Foundation Software, an Ohio-based provider of accounting software and payroll services for small and mid-sized construction contractors. Fred Ode, who founded Foundation Software in 1985, will maintain a minority stake in the company.

Byju acquires edtech startup WhiteHat Jr. for $300M as the Indian online learning giant looks to expand its dominant reach in the country.

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