The Nature Conservancy invests in five agtech companies
The Nature Conservancy has commenced investments in a series of emerging agtech solutions that have the potential to accelerate adoption of regenerative agriculture management practices for the benefit of farmers, soil health, climate, and biodiversity.
Initial Investments Include:
Growers Edge: A financial technology company that delivers farm enterprise income assurance through data-driven products, solutions, and tools. The company reduces the financial exposure for farm operations adopting new technology or practices through warranty-backed crop plans and ag financing solutions.
Kula Bio: The firm is developing a cost-effective biological nitrogen fertilizer that minimizes runoff. An alternative or partial replacement for synthetic nitrogen fertilizer has the potential for significant positive impact for farm profitability and the environment.
Pattern Ag: The company provides soil microbiome analysis and recommendations for input optimization on farm. Focused on specific pest and disease pressures faced by corn and soybean farmers, the firm recommends what to purchase and application solutions for when and where they are needed.
Stony Creek Colors: By developing sustainable, plant-based dyes such as indigo for the textile, cosmetics, and food markets, the firm is working directly with growers to bring greater profitability and improve soil health with an alternative row crop to improve the market-driven options for farmers to diversify crop rotations.
SwarmFarm: The autonomous, robotic farming technologies developed by the firm are enabling effective precision application of nutrient and crop-protection inputs. The tool (robot plus developer ecosystem for attachments) for row crop farming operations is focused on optimizing herbicide and fertilizer application for farm profitability and environmental benefit.
TNC works with iSelect, a venture fund manager focused on early and growth-stage companies in sustainable ag, food, and healthcare, to identify companies developing innovative solutions.
TNC’s director of agricultural innovation, Renée Vassilos, says, “Deteriorating soil health underpins many of the agricultural challenges facing us this century – from climate and biodiversity, to food security and fresh water. No other sector impacts the ground beneath our feet to the extent that agriculture currently does. The science of soil health solutions is becoming more evident every day, but the pace of market-driven innovations has so far lagged the need for action. By putting our money where our mouth is, we’re optimistic about the potential of our portfolio companies to accelerate solutions to the soil health challenge.”
The five companies demonstrate strong potential to scale solutions across one or more of four priority areas of soil health: expanded use of cover crops; uptake of no-till practices; improved plant diversity achieved through cash crop rotations; and precise or more efficient crop input management.
Michael Doane, TNC’s global managing director for food and freshwater systems, says, “Investments in and collaborations with early-stage agri-tech companies will help make the task of managing for soil health more operationally efficient and profitable for farmers. The initiative complements our collective efforts to accelerate the shift to a regenerative, nature-positive production model.”
Elaborating on the thinking behind this pilot, iSelect Fund’s CEO Carter Williams says, “The best innovations improve soil health and farmer economics; better economics accelerate the adoption cycle, investor returns, and positive environmental outcomes.”