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.