8 Innovative Farm Tech Start-Ups

With the agriculture industry employing 40 percent of the world's population and earning American farmers $120.6 billion in 2013, it's a wonder that the sector hasn't been a target for Silicon Valley before. But in the last few years, investors gave funding them.

1. The Climate Corporation

The Climate Corporation aims to build a digitized world where every farmer is able to optimize and flawlessly execute every decision on the farm. The company's proprietary Climate FieldView™ platform combines hyper-local weather monitoring, agronomic modeling, and high-resolution weather simulations to deliver Climate FieldView products, mobile SaaS solutions that help farmers improve profitability by making better informed operating and financing decisions. The company's unique technologies help the global $3 trillion agriculture industry to stabilize and improve profits and, ultimately, help feed the world.

The Climate Corporation still works independently in San Francisco, filtering through 50 terabytes of live soil and weather data at any given time. In a letter to his company, David Friedberg defended the sale to Monsanto, writing: “The people of the Climate Corporation are going to lead the world to revolutionary solutions to historic problems. This partnership enables us with capital, data, and reach we would not have had on our own.”

2. Solum

Solum’s mission is to make agriculture easier and more productive. The word “Solum” is a geological term for top soil, reflecting Solum’s beginnings in soil science and agronomy. The company operated on two levels: offering advanced soil testing to farmers and a software platform built to aid in soil management decisions.

On February 20, 2014, Solum sold the testing operations to The Climate Corporation, which is part of the Monsanto Corporation.  The company is continuing to work on new soil measurements, and is working to develop tools that support a broader set of operational needs.

3. Soil IQ

Many of the agriculture ideas coming out of Silicon Valley aim to make food production data more accessible, rather than investing in actual farms. Soil IQ is a company that’s bringing the “Internet of things” trend to urban and rural farming.

Their first product, already in production, is a 3-inch soil sensor topped with a solar panel that streams data via a cellular network and Wi-Fi. Stuck among the tomatoes and peppers, it feeds gardeners live information on soil conditions and makes recommendations on when to plant and when to harvest. For an annual subscription fee, the company even plans to send you seeds when the time is right.

4. SmartGardener

SmartGardener might not have sophisticated sensors to showcase, but it is quickly becoming a one-stop shop for backyard gardeners. Smart Gardener is a free webapp that makes planning a garden really easy. The app lets you drag and drop garden beds to layout your garden and helps you find plants perfect for your location, then it generates an intelligent plan and even sends timely gardening reminders.

In a sense, it’s FarmVille come to life. The online platform lets you drag and drop garden beds, then helps determine which plants will work at your location. You can buy the seeds or plant right onsite, and throughout the growing season a steady stream of online reminders helps you manage them to a bumper crop. Come harvest time, you can even use SmartGardener to share the bounty with friends and neighbors.

5. Blue River Technology

Think GPS-guided tractors and aerial imaging drones mean that the agriculture industry is already automated? Just wait until Blue River Technology gets going.

Jorge Heruad and Lee Redden, both Stanford-trained engineers, have come up with Lettuce Bot as the company’s first product. Dragged behind a tractor, the machine watches rows of lettuce crops, comparing what it sees to millions of saved images. When it detects either a weed or a number of lettuce heads crowding each other out, the machine sprays fertilizer too potent for the target, but nourishing to the surrounding crops.

In his interview with Modern Farmer last summer, Heruad made it clear his company has no intention of stopping with lettuce. “The next step for us is to go into other crops. Once we can get our technology working in lettuce, we believe that we can move to other crops in a very natural way.”

6. Farmeron

The business plan for Farmeron — a software-as-a-service business based in a small town in Croatia — sounds simple. The world’s livestock producers have lots of data on their animals, but no idea how to put it to good use. Farmeron hopes to help.

Farmers across the world can now log on to view performance data on a group of animals or the whole farm. The numbers stay current, giving farmers a daily update on crucial numbers like income over feed cost. And a calendar helps livestock producers know when to milk cows, weigh animals and inject vaccinations.

7. Freight Farms

Freight Farms is addressing the needs of the world’s changing food landscape by providing physical and digital solutions for creating local produce ecosystems on a global scale. Freight Farms customers are located across North America and range from entrepreneurs and small businesses, to hotels and restaurants, to corporations and educational institutions. By decentralizing the food supply chain and bringing production closer to consumers, Freight Farms is drastically reducing the environmental impact of traditional agriculture and empowering any individual, community or organization to sustainably grow fresh produce year-round, no matter their location, background or climate.

Urban farming is a tough racket. Jon Friedman, struggling to make money in the rooftop greenhouse business in Boston, actually considered living in a shipping container when, eureka! He realized that he could turn the shipping container into a farm.

It would solve what he understood as his company’s problems: making city gardens cheaper and easier to scale and transport. Now, after raising $1.2 million to build a new set of Freight Farms, he and co-founder Brad McNamara are selling an average of two units a week.

Grist reports those units have been sent to a variety of urban growers — chefs, restaurants, distributors, vacant lot developers, activists, entrepreneurs and schools. Each module can grow 4,500 plants a month and do it in tight quarters, but the selling points don’t stop there. Owners can also control the sophisticated hydroponics and violet grow lights with the touch of a smart phone.

Want one yourself? Current selling prices range from $70,000 to $85,000.

8. Local Food Lab

Missing from our list: the Mom and Pop operations, the goat cheese guys at the farmer’s market, the local entrepreneurs who build a business around serving their communities with fresh delicious food. See, we chose to profile tech and data companies involved in agriculture, but Local Food Labs has a platform for local food entrepreneurs to share ideas. Think of it as Pinterest for food start-ups.

Local Food Lab started out as an accelerator, flying prospective companies out to California to learn the basics of running a business and to connect their ideas with investors. After a couple years and success stories later, co-founder Krysia Zajonc chose to expand the scope. She now hopes the new online platform will help small-scale entrepreneurs come home rich from the farmer’s market.

Source : modernfarmer.com