There are apps that cater to salesmen, to cooks, to contractors and to stockbrokers. Why not an app for farmers? FarmLogs — a Y Combinator grad relocated to Ann Arbor, Mich. — has raised $1 million to invest in its digital management platform for farmers – and by farmers I mean the ones out of Steinbeck novels, not the ones on Facebook.
FarmLogs has designed software-as-a-service platform that helps small growers plan, manage and analyze their agricultural operations with the aim of maximizing crop yield and therefore profits. FarmLogs will track inventory, forecast profits, and digitize paperwork. It even follows the weather. The software is hosted in the cloud, which subscribers can access through an Android app, an HTML app optimized for the iPhone and iPad or a standard web browser.
Crain’s Detroit Business has an excellent description of just how sophisticated FarmLogs’ software is:
According to [CEO and co-founder Jesse] Vollmar, a midsize farm of 3,000 acres might have 60 separate fields, which can get complicated when it comes to keeping track of what needs to be tilled, watered, planted, fertilized, sprayed or harvested.
FarmLogs does that, with color-coded calendars for each bit of the mosaic that makes up the Google Earth image of a decent-size farm.
FarmLogs has hourly weather forecasts so farmers can plan when to get in or get out of fields. It tells them the price all the area grain elevators are paying for various grains, as well as prices at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. It has video feeds of various experts at the Chicago Board of Trade talking on issues of the day.
The $1 million round was led by Chicago’s Hyde Park Ventures and Ann Arbor’s Huron River Ventures with Hyde Park Angels, Silicon Badia Ventures, First-Step Fund and angel investors also participating. According to Crain’s, that includes the $245,000 in seed funding it raised from Silcon Valley’s Start Fund and Andreesson Horowitz.
While farming might seem like an odd place for tech investment, FarmLogs points out that agriculture employs 36 percent of the global workforce. Big agribusiness companies like Cargill and ConAgra Foods, being gigantic corporations, have access to technology that not only engineers their food products but streamlines their business operations. Smaller farmers, though, don’t have access to such resources.
An emerging sector of startups is starting to feed that small farm base. For instance, New York City’s FarmersWeb has built an online e-commerce platform that links small growers and meat producers to local restaurants, grocery stores, institutional kitchens and wholesalers.