Seed Money: Startups For Better Farming

These innovators are finding breakthrough ways to improve life on the farm

Published: May 7, 2014 07:50:20 AM IST
Updated: May 6, 2014 02:34:12 PM IST

Seed Money: Startups For Better Farming
Rob Leclerc, Agfunder

Leclerc, 41, had a PhD in biology and a background in artificial intelligence when he went to work with an African agribusiness company and became fascinated with the challenge of connecting a winning idea with willing investors. In 2013 he launched AgFunder, an online investment platform for the global agriculture industry. Handling $1.3 billion worth of projects, AgFunder connects private and institutional investors with ventures ranging from cattle ranches in Brazil to Hawaiian dairy farms to cloud-based ag software.

Seed Money: Startups For Better Farming

Naveen Sikka, Terviva
Despite his MBA from UC Berkeley, Sikka, 35, spends much of his time in the field. He founded Ter Viva in 2010. It develops new crops to thrive on land no longer being productively farmed: It played out acreage in Florida and Hawaii that once grew citrus and sugarcane. Its first commercialised crop is pongamia, a tree whose pods can be processed into biofuels, fertiliser or animal feed. It’s similar to soy but yields up to eight times the harvest while requiring less water—it has drawn $5.5 million in private capital and grants to date.

Seed Money: Startups For Better Farming

Jesse Vollmar, Farmlogs
He did a brief West Coast stint in startup incubator Y Combinator before returning to Michigan in 2012 to found FarmLogs, a software platform that helps farmers harness data to make crucial decisions, such as which fi elds, according to meteorological data, will be wet to work on a particular day. FarmLogs exploits the reach of high-speed internet into remote rural communities to save farmers hours of labour a day. More than 5 percent of US farms with row crops now use the technology, which has attracted $5 million in investment.

Images: Kathryn Dill

(This story appears in the 16 May, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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