Farming, as with most industries, isn’t short of crystal balls. Most everyone has an opinion on what the future of the industry might hold. But perhaps no one has a bigger stake in getting it right than venture capitalist companies, who invest millions of dollars each year in start-ups companies working to develop the next big thing in agriculture.
Finistere Ventures, a venture capitalist company, has invested funds in the ag sector for over a decade. It is a strategic partner of Bayer, who invests in Finistere, and another venture capitalist company called Flagship Ventures, to broaden its scope of available technologies.
“In the venture capital world, some of the other ag companies rely on their own staff of venture capitalists to find investment opportunities,” says Geoff Kneen, who heads up the R&D licensing and new ventures for Bayer. “We do it a little differently in that we partner with venture capitalist companies, and that allows us to broaden our scope and see a lot more technologies than if we did all of our investment work in-house.”
Farm Industry News met with Kneen and Arama Kukutai of Finistere Ventures at Bayer’s AgVocacy Forum in New Orleans, La., in March. We asked Kukutai to talk about what he thinks are some of the most promising and exciting technologies coming to agriculture in the next few years.
FIN: What are some trends your company is seeing?
Kukutai: Agricultural technology is undergoing another revolution. We are seeing it with the application of f life science technology. So, genomics and certainly the next generation of GMO technologies would be one trend.
What’s another trend you’ve observed?
Kukutai: We also are seeing a trend in the biological space. Replacing herbicides, pesticides and crop control products with essentially naturally produced products. This addresses a huge market opportunity for new tools for farmers to essentially deal with pest resistance and weed resistance.
Big data has been a big news topic lately. Can you touch on that?
Kukutai: Yes, we also are seeing significant investment in digital agriculture. By this I mean the application of the cloud, big-data computing integration with farm equipment, farm sensors, satellite imagery and drone imagery to provide farmers with better tools to manage their crops.
How has the digital trend impacted your business?
Kukutai: We recently invested in an agricultural analytics startup called CropX that is focused on reducing water use by as much as a third from pivot irrigation through an advanced adaptive irrigation software service. So, as we face greater water pressures, this is another tool we are looking at trying to bring to market through the partnership we have with Bayer.
Is the technology available here in the Midwest?
Kukutai: We are piloting it in the Midwest, and the company is rolling out their solution this year in large scale with farmers. It is an example of how technology is becoming truly global. ). (Note: You can read about how it works here as part of our Commodity Classic show coverage.)
Where is the company based?
Kukutai: The company’s original technologies came out of Israel, New Zealand, and the United States, and its R&D is in Tel Aviv. The sales team is spread across America, and the major markets for its use are Midwest farmers. You can learn more about it on their website cropx.com