Solum harvests $17M to bring high-tech data to farming

As the population booms, more food is being grown on less land, data companies are helping it along

Technology trends and news by Krystal Peak
June 27, 2012
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As developing nations continue to put excess stress on the global food supply, some companies are looking to high-tech data software to help find some answers.

One of these companies, Solum, announced Wednesday that it raised a $17 million Series B round of funding to do just that.

The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, and general partner John O’Farrell will be joining the Solum board as a result of this investment. 

Previously, Solum raised just over $2 million in a Series A round led by Khosla Ventures, which also participated in this round. 

Funds from this round will be used to meet growing demand through the expansion of facilities and the addition of hardware and software engineering talent, supporting Solum's mission to optimize sustainable food production through data-driven agriculture.

"Our team is passionate about bringing advanced measurement technologies to production agriculture, empowering farmers and those who support them to maximize productivity and better manage limited and valuable resources," said Solum CEO Nick Koshnick, in a statement.

O'Farrell wrote in a blog entry for the announcement that he was just in Rio de Janeiro and noticed just how positive the mobility of the people there has been (where 40 million have entered the middle class in Brazil alone) but how this mobility has crippled the food system since more people are using the mass food system rather than the gathering, bartering  and local food systems.

And O'Farrell quoted the UN’s Rio+20 website to focus the issue:

…Right now, our soils, freshwateroceans, forests and biodiversity are being rapidly degraded. Climate change is putting even more pressure on the resources we depend on, increasing risks associated with disasters such as droughts and floods.  Many rural women and men can no longer make ends meet on their land, forcing them to migrate to cities in search of opportunities.”

So with the three founders of Solum, (all equipped with PhDs in Applied Physics from Stanford and ties to the American Midwest), there is a renewed focus on using more accurate technology for testing farm soil, enabling farmers to measure actual nutrient content and apply fertilizer on a targeted and highly granular basis.  

I, personally, am curious just how Solum will be working with these developing agriculture sectors since food and its cultivation have been hot topics in the sustainability community. Many people remain adamantly against or at least skeptical about a lot of the technology that goes into farming so it will be interesting how Solum will tow the line between using science and data but remain sustainable.

The company says that its technology is impacting not only fertilizer management, but also seed placement, and other agronomic management practices. And Solum offers patented hardware and software solutions that enable increased profitability by providing the information required to farm every acre optimally.


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