A US start up company has emerged with the latest new practical application of big data – helping farmers yield better crop returns – and it has just earned $17m (£11m) in series B funding to make it happen.
Solum – founded by Nick Koshnick, a PhD graduate in Applied Physics from Stanford University – provides hardware technology and cloud-based software which allows farmers to monitor the health of their soil around their land, allowing them to make intervention with fertiliser where necessary and to choose where they plant certain crops as appropriate.
“The recent, widespread adoption of GPS-based tools has enabled an unprecedented ability to systematically understand and control every portion of crop land,” explained Koshnick. “Our company has re-invented the way soil information is generated. Our platform leverages a diverse array of measurements and data to provide new insights that can dramatically increase crop yields.”
Commenting to Forbes, he highlighted the inefficiencies that farmers currently face. “If you apply tons of fertiliser to sandy soil and there’s a lot of rain, the fertiliser will just run off,” he said. “In other places where there’s high production you can apply more seeds and increase your yield.”
He also highlighted how the system supports the ideology of sustainability as a driver of increased profit, since resources can be saved and the use of eco damaging chemicals as a means of increasing productivity can be reduced.
The company – with 23 employees – will now be able to release its offering to the mass market having secured the $17m funding from a group of venture capitalists.
John O’Farrell, general partner of the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz will join the Solum board. He said: “Solum’s advanced technology and software offer the world's agricultural producers a substantially smarter way to measure and manage large-scale crop production. This combination of brilliant technologists tackling a really important problem with huge global market potential represents an excellent fit with our investment philosophy.”
Existing investor Khosla Ventures also participated in this round.
Click here for a blog post from John O’Farrell to learn more.