The world is moving towards a food shortage by 2050 as its population grows, so anything to make it easier for farmers to grow food will go a long way.
That’s what InnerPlant Founder and CEO Shely Aronov is trying to do with his startup, using plant physiology to collect loads of data to make farming more efficient and sustainable. Or more simply, use sensor and satellite technology so that crops can “talk” to their growers.
Shely Aronov and Rod Kumimoto started the Davis, California-based company in 2018 and have spent most of the past four years in R&D mode developing GM crops that emit “signals” “early, for example when they are thirsty, there are pests. attack or need nitrogen for farmers to act quickly.
The company has increased $5.65 million in a seed round in 2021, led by MS&AD Ventures and now back with $16 million Series A funding. This time, Deere & Co. led the round and was joined by MS&AD Ventures, Bee Partners, Up West and TAU Ventures.
The new investment gives InnerPlant a total capital of $22 million to date as the company prepares to launch its first soybean product in 2024. Additionally, the company will begin launching satellites to speak of. with its sensors by 2023.
“We now have a really efficient process for developing soybean properties and we are currently working on our first commercial product, a soybean fungal detection sensor.” Aronov told TechCrunch. “We should have that in the field trials next year, and then a soft launch with our Circle members.”
InnerPlant’s Inner Circle has 75 farmers working on 4,000 acres. This is a group of farmers who paid $500 early in the life of the company for access to the first product.
Since the seed round, the company has grown to 18 employees. Last October, InnerPlant hired Randy Shultz to head R&D. For over 15 years, he has held similar roles at Arcadia Biosciences, Inari and Monsanto.
The company also moved into a large lab earlier this year, and “finally has a place to deploy capital,” Aronov said. The company will now hire more people in R&D, data and engineering, business development, customer success, and marketing.
Meanwhile, Deere & Co. no stranger to innovation on the farm. Earlier this year, John Deere announced self-driving tractor and See & Spray targeting technology.
Than Hartsock, Deere & Co.’s corn and soybean production systems manager, told TechCrunch investing in InnerPlant aligns with his company’s mission to help farmers better prepare their soils and produce crops. better through technology like precision application.
“Being able to give the factory what it needs, when it needs it, in many cases at the individual plant level, is the direction our strategy is taking,” he added. “Shely and our teams quickly realized that our vision was a good fit. Our investment is part of a commitment to understanding how such a solution can drive more efficiency in crop production. Willingness to remove waste from the system will ultimately result in higher profits, better outcomes for the farmer. “