Can an ex-​​Googler use big data to help farmers grow more food?

May 19, 2015

By Heather Clancy:  Most inde­pen­dent farm­ers have amassed plenty of his­tor­i­cal knowl­edge about their own land. Far fewer have access to exter­nal met­rics that could help them make bet­ter man­age­ment deci­sions, such as how new seeds may per­form or other prac­tices that could improve their harvests.

Enter agri­cul­ture tech startup Farm­ers Busi­ness Net­work (FBN), which at its heart is a social net­work­ing com­mu­nity for inde­pen­dent agri­cul­tural businesses.

Founded by a for­mer Google pro­gram man­ager and a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist with a back­ground in agri­cul­ture, FBN has dis­closed a new $15 mil­lion fund­ing round led by Google Ven­tures, along with Kleiner Perkins Cau­field & Byers and DBL Investors. The new money brings the Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pany close to $28 mil­lion in total backing.

Grow­ing an emerg­ing mar­ket
The new fund­ing will be used to expand the platform’s pres­ence in other states, and to increase the sorts of data that can be interpreted.

It’s really sur­pris­ing how advanced and sophis­ti­cated a lot of farm equip­ment is,” Baron said. “A lot of onboard com­put­ers are col­lect­ing infor­ma­tion about what’s tak­ing place in the field. … If you can inte­grate those data sets, you can gen­er­ate vast new insights about what’s tak­ing place and why.”

Nancy Pfund, founder and man­ag­ing part­ner of the San Francisco-​​based ven­ture cap­i­tal and impact investor DBL Investors, was inspired to invest after lit­er­ally run­ning into the cofounders on a San Fran­cisco street. After lis­ten­ing to a few min­utes of their pitch, she set a meeting.

DBL was an early investor in Tesla and SolarCity and sup­ports emerg­ing com­pa­nies that could dis­rupt indus­tries socially, eco­nom­i­cally and envi­ron­men­tally. Pfund believes FBN could inspire a new age of sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural entrepreneurship.

It’s all about help­ing farm­ers stay on their land, make a good liveli­hood and address a much larger chal­lenge to feed the world,” Pfund said.

To read the full arti­cle, visit Green­Biz.