Big Data Meets Ag at our Power Breakfast

On February 14, Cleantech Group, Silicon Valley Bank, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati hosted a Power Breakfast focused on Agriculture & Food. Conversation starters from Monsanto Ventures, Khosla Ventures, AgFunder, OnFarm, and Grundfos, along with over seventy investors, corporates, startup and grower attendees,  discussed topics ranging from the Climate Corp acquisition to labor challenges to local food. Ultimately the conversation returned time and time again to how data can make agriculture more efficient. For those of you that couldn’t join us, here were some of the key takeaways:

food blog

  • Fidelity of data – The billion-dollar Climate Corp acquisition by Monsanto was a popular topic of discussion. One investor commented that Climate Corp offers generalized and public data at a cheap price (combined with a financial product offering). Participants saw high fidelity data as the next frontier for startups to tackle. Although this type of data is more expensive to collect, it is also worth much more to farmers. Regardless of the fidelity of the data, a number of participants emphasized the need to make data more actionable.
  • Origination of innovation – Although startups are the source of innovation, corporates are the players that will likely scale of and commercialize innovation. Monsanto has clearly jumped in, importing Silicon Valley DNA.  Many in the room questioned whether other current ag majors, such as Syngenta and John Deere, would be going a similar route. On the other hand, will companies like Google, which has the Silicon Valley pedigree of innovation, enter the agricultural data field? If they did, would they be able to mold their processes and thinking to agriculture, which has an extremely different culture and outlook?
  • Perception of the industry – One investor commented that agriculture still has a laggard reputation among parts the VC community. Despite recent happenings, most notably the Climate Corp acquisition by Monsanto, this reputation persists. Big data, sensors, drones, and genetic modification are all being employed by startups, corporates, and growers alike. More successes like Climate Corp will accelerate the changing perception and reveal Agriculture & Food to be an exciting sector with major potential for innovation.

Corporates and investors like Khosla Ventures, Pepsi and Grundfos use i3 as part of their external innovation and investing efforts. Take i3 for a free test drive today.