By Katie Roof
Farmers Business Network Inc. says it raised $250 million in financing to expand its agriculture technology platform.
The financing round was led by BlackRock Inc., with participation from investors including Lupa Systems, T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., GV and Kleiner Perkins.
The investment values the company at about $1.75 billion, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t yet public. It was last valued about $1.1 billion last year, according to PitchBook Data Inc. The company declined to comment on its valuation.
San Carlos, California-based Farmers Business Network has a data and analytics platform that helps farmers with a range of functions, from pricing to marketing. The new capital will be used to expand its seed and crop protection business, which aims to help farmers reduce their cost of production.
Amol Deshpande, chief executive officer and co-founder, said saving farmers money is more important than ever, as many agricultural businesses were harmed by the pandemic.
“Many farmers in the United States who grow commodity crops will not make any money this year,” he said.
Farmers Business Network has built a group of 12,000 members, covering 40 million acres of farmland across the U.S., Canada and Australia. The growing network is seen as a threat to some industry veterans, he said. “They’re trying to keep prices high,” he said.
Deshpande said the agricultural food supply giants behave like oligopolists, adding that they deserve more antitrust scrutiny. “It’s far worse than the tech industry,” he said, referring to a sector where top executives were questioned by Congress last week.
Farmers Business is able to make money by cutting out the middleman in the supply chain process and going directly to the farmers, Deshpande said. He said that the business is in a position that it will be able to go public some day.
Investors say that the startup is helping farmers make money and that it’s also helping the environment. “Farmers are empowered because FBN has allowed them to see you’ve been planting too many seeds,” said Nancy Pfund, managing partner at DBL Partners, about why she invested.
The network’s data will also alert them if they’re overpaying, she said, and the efficiencies will also drive down carbon content. “We need to feed 10 billion people by 2050 and we can’t do that without being sustainable,” she said.