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商业 - 科技

农业成为硅谷创业大热领域

Katie Fehrenbacher 2015年08月04日

农业方面采用新技术的进展始终缓慢,但现在人们对利用科技来减少水和化肥使用量的需求越来越强烈,这不仅有利于环境,也可以降低农民生产成本。于是,农业技术正成为风险投资家和创业者关注的热点领域。相关统计显示,2013-2014年,硅谷对农业和食品类初创公司的投资额度翻了一番。

    硅谷常被指责“随波逐流”。看看那些对农业技术趋之若鹜的初创公司,说“随波逐流”并不为过。如今,许多最著名的风险投资家和创业者都致力于向农场提供最新的计算机技术——数据分析、云计算、移动应用。

    上周三,农业软件初创公司Granular表示,他们已经在新一轮融资中获得了安德森·霍洛维茨、谷歌风投和科斯拉创投等公司共计1.87亿美元的投资支持。这是Granular的第二轮融资,新加入的投资者还包括Tao Capital Partners、Emory Investment Management、Fall Line Capital和H. Barton Asset Management。

    Granular去年正式亮相。它脱胎于2009年诞生,随后解体的Solum公司。Solum销售土壤试验和数据技术的部门被农业巨头孟山都收购,并被并入孟山都于2013年从数据创业公司气候集团收购的数据团队。

    Solum未被收购的技术,即供农民使用的软件、云服务、移动应用和协作工具,最终促成了Granular的诞生。如今,Granular的软件帮助许多农民高效地管理自己的农场,降低了水和化肥的使用量。公司的技术能让农民实时掌握农场的详细数据,从而做出更好的决策。(Granular表示,他们目前拥有几十名客户,产品覆盖的土地总面积超过100万英亩。)

    例如,俄亥俄州的农民马克·布莱恩特就在使用Granular的软件管理农场的运营、预算状况并跟踪库存。Granular在去年推出了这款软件,7名美国中西部地区的农民也为这款软件的设计做出了贡献。

    试图把技术卖给农民的初创公司有好几十家,Granular只是其中之一。该公司主要面向数千位大农场主,他们拥有全美三分之一的土地。这些大农场主正越来越多地购买小农场的土地,同时也在寻找新的管理工具。

    农业在采用技术方面的进展始终缓慢,然而农民却越来越希望利用技术减少水和化肥的使用,以降低成本。干旱导致的水资源匮乏现象估计会越来越普遍。随着2050年世界人口达到90亿,农民需要利用更少的资源生产更多的粮食。

    气候变化导致极端天气越来越多,也使得务农风险越来越大。农民们试图采用更多技术,以更好地应对潜在的天气问题。

    根据Cleantech Group的数据,在2013年至2014年间,硅谷对农业和食品类初创公司的投资额度翻了一番。2014年,农业食品领域(不包含生物燃料,包含部分按需制作的食品公司)的151家初创公司共得到了9.76亿美元的资助。

    这种快节奏的融资似乎会在今年持续下去。今年5月,农业数据公司Farmers Business Network从谷歌风投、Kleiner Perkins和 DBL Investors处募得了1500万美元投资。其他的农业技术初创公司还包括FarmLink、Adapt-N、Farmers Edge、FarmLogs、aWhere、Granular、Farmeron、OnFarm、Agralogics、Blue River Technology和Precision Hawk。(财富中文网)

    译者:严匡正

    审校:任文科

    Silicon Valley, often accused of following the herd, is doing that quite literally when it comes to startups building technology for farmers. Some of the most well known venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are now focused on bringing the latest computing technologies — data analytics, cloud computing, mobile apps — to farms.

    On Wednesday, farming software startup Granular said that it has raised a new round of $18.7 million in funding from investors Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, and Khosla Ventures. New investors in the round, which is Granular’s second, included Tao Capital Partners, Emory Investment Management, Fall Line Capital, and H. Barton Asset Management.

    Granular debuted last year from the split of another startup called Solum that was founded in 2009. Agriculture giant Monsanto acquired the half of Solum’s business that sold soil testing and data tech to farmers and folded it into the data team it acquired in 2013 from data startup Climate Corp.

    Solum’s remaining technology, which is software, cloud-services, mobile apps and collaboration tools for farmers, was spun out into Granular. Now Granular’s software is helping a handful of farmers manage their farms more efficiently, using less water and less fertilizer. The tech enables them to tap into detailed data about how their farms operate in real time and, presumably, make better decisions. (Granular says it has several dozen customers covering about 1 million acres).

    For example, Ohio farmer Mark Bryant has been using Granular’s software to manage his farm’s operations, budget, and inventory tracking. Granular introduced its software last year with seven Midwestern farmers who also helped the company design the original software.

    Granular is just one of dozens of startups trying to sell tech to farmers. The company is focused on the thousands of big farm owners that account for a third of U.S. farmland. These large farmers are increasingly buying up land from smaller farming operations and are looking for new tools to manage it all.

    Not only has the agriculture industry been slow to adopt tech, but farmers are increasingly looking to use tech to reduce their use of water and fertilizer to save money. Water shortages from droughts are expected to become more common. As the world population hits 9 billion in 2050, farmers will have to produce more food, with less resources.

    Extreme weather aggravated by climate change is also making farming more risky. Farmers are looking to use more tech to better deal with the potential weather problems.

    Between 2013 and 2014, Silicon Valley’s interest in backing agriculture and food-related startups doubled in terms of deal size, according to data from the Cleantech Group. In 2014, 151 startups focused on agriculture and food (not including biofuels, but including some of the on-demand food startups) were funded to the tune of $976 million.

    That funding FAST-PACE looks like it will continue this year. In May farming data startup Farmers Business Network raised $15 million from Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins and DBL Investors. Other farming tech startups include FarmLink, Adapt-N,Farmers Edge, FarmLogs, aWhere, Granular,Farmeron, OnFarm, Agralogics, Blue River Technologyand Precision Hawk.

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