If there’s one thing Minnesota is known for, it’s agriculture. And as the state’s startup scene continues to grow, more and more local entrepreneurs and technologists are founding new companies to tackle the agriculture industry’s most challenging problems.
On a national level, the ag-tech ecosystem is beginning to show signs of scaling up. A study of the industry by PitchBook found that ag-tech investment continues to grow year to year. In 2018, More than $1.6 billion was invested across approximately 200 deals in ag-tech, with median deal sizes averaging around $10 million for late-stage companies.
PitchBook also found that, by and large, just about every segment of ag-tech experienced upward trends within the last year for both venture deal value and volume.
As a historical agriculture stronghold, Minnesota could be in a unique position to become a major hub for ag-tech in the Midwest.
Below are a handful of local companies already making their mark on the industry. Cumulative funding numbers are estimations based on available CrunchBase data.
Total VC funding: $45.2 million
Farmers use Conservis‘ platform to manage their business and track and share data. In late 2018, the company reported that it had secured around $12 million in fresh capital. Conservis also announced that it planned to partner with financial-technology startup Rabo AgriFinance to co-develop new technology that allows farmers to connect field data and financial results. Minne Inno named Conservis as one of its 19 Startups to Watch in 2019.
Total VC funding: $37.5 million
Puris, known for its Puris Pea protein powder, is regarded as the largest North American producer of pea protein. In 2018, Puris signed a joint venture agreement with Minnetonka-based Cargill. Exact terms of the deal were not disclosed, but both companies said that the venture would provide Puris with the financial backing to increase distribution of its products and add capacity. Puris was founded in Oskaloosa, Iowa in 1986, but moved its headquarters to Minneapolis in 2016.
Total VC funding: $22.5 million
Richfield-based Sentera makes drones, sensors and a software application that lets users tag and share images collected by drones. The company recently raised $14 million from a group of investors that included New York-based Continental Grain Co., S2G Ventures of Chicago and Middleland Capital, based in Washington, D.C.
Living Greens Farm
Total VC funding: $3 million
Living Greens can grow vegetables at a scale similar to a conventional farm with hundreds of acres, and a recent expansion allows the company to reach commercial-scale production. The Fairbault-based farm grows a variety of herbs and salad greens using a method known as aeroponics. That means plants grow outside the soil, with roots exposed so that nutrients can be applied directly to them. Living Greens can grow things year-round in an inhospitable climate like Minnesota because of the amount of control they have over the indoor growing environment, from light to temperature to humidity.
Total VC funding: $1.8 million
AgVend is an e-commerce startup that’s created an online marketplace for farm products. The startup’s website lets users search for a product and compare results based on price, delivery and other services. Retailers’ logos aren’t displayed along with the search results, and customers only find out who a seller is after a purchase is made. Last year, AgVend closed on $1.75 million that it said it would use to ramp up hiring at its Twin Cities office.