Down on the farm
Today's Itinerary: New tech helping with food production; a look at some shady food producers; some "high-flying" numbers and a road trip!
August 13, 2019
Can innovation feed the world?
There are some fascinating startups in Flyover Country that are focused on the future of agriculture. Here are a couple that caught our attention this week:
EarthSense, in Champaign, IL, developed a four-wheeled robot that can monitor and deliver crop data in real time.
The robot, named TerraSentia, weighs about 15 pounds and rolls through farmland like a mini-tractor version of the Roomba.
A nice complement to the TerraSentia may be this up and coming service.
Understory, founded in Madison, WI, has developed solar-powered weather stations that collect hyper-local weather data and can be placed in fields to assist in data-driven field decisions. Earlier this year, Understory raised $5.25 million in a Series B funding round led by True Ventures. Previous Understory investors 4490 Ventures and Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund joined in the deal.
When organic isn't really organic
According to John Bobbe, a Scandinavia, WI, farmer and past executive director of OFARM, the largest organic grain cooperative in the US, 70 percent of organic soybeans and 40 percent of organic corn are imported.
And Bobbe and many other US producers claim some major importers are not playing by the same stringent rules US producers are held to.
Wait just a minute there...
Bobbe stumbled onto the problem in 2015 when a hiccup in trucking some grain kicked off a series of events that ultimately alerted him to the glut of grain coming into the US from the Black Sea region.
“I ended up knowing more about shipping and traveling to more places than I ever imagined I would,” Bobbe said.
A crack in the system
Bobbe questions why the National Organic Program (NOP) doesn't routinely examine ship logs, insurance coverages, and other documentation or send personnel to verify the grain being loaded at the source.
“We have a system that is incapable of thinking outside the box,” he said.
Iowa businesses raise $7.55M
Clay & Milk has been covering and connecting the Iowa ecosystem since 2016. It just released its list of all known investments raised by Iowa companies in the second quarter of 2019. In Q2, Iowa-based companies raised $7,555,000. With the investments from Q1, that brings the total amount raised through the first two quarters of 2019 to $14,914,000.
The report also talks about West Des Moines-based health care organization UnityPoint Health announcing the launch of a $100 million venture fund that will invest in early-stage growth health service companies. It's the largest venture fund ever that is based in Iowa.
A single company in KC lands $200M investment
Courtesy of Google Street View (Image capture, April 2019)
Last year, when C2FO raised $100 million in an investment round, it was the largest at the time for a Kansas City-area company. The latest fundraising round, led by SoftBank Vision Fund and including existing investors Temasek and Union Square Ventures, doubled that amount.
The financial technology company was founded in January 2008 by Sandy Kemper, former CEO of UMB Financial Corporation. C2FO was previously known as Pollenware.
C2FO offers an electronic trading platform that allows suppliers to negotiate with their buyers for early payment of invoices. C2FO’s buy-side clients include Costco, Ace hardware, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Wal-Mart.
Their website says, “Just as other major marketplaces like NYSE, NASDAQ, and CBOE route orders between buyers and sellers for equities and options, the C2FO marketplace routes buy and sell orders for cash to and from trading partners in supply chains across the globe.”
In February, C2FO landed on CB Insights and The New York Times' list of the 50 Future Unicorns, which are businesses expected to reach $1 billion valuation.
More "high-flying" numbers: $3.9M for weed in MO
In November 2018, Missouri residents approved with 66% of the vote a ballot measure to legalize the medical use of cannabis.
Since then, Missouri has raked in more than $3.9 million in fees from applicants, ahead of accepting formal applications starting on August 3rd. The state expects to license businesses by the end of the year.
Applicants need hundreds of thousands in cash and must describe details of their business plans, including odor control, security, and economic impact. Some companies have retained lobbyists as the application process intensifies.
Currently, there are more than 500 names on applications to grow and sell marijuana in Missouri.
Road trip dude!
From August 20 to 24, three people from the Minneapolis-based tech company VSI Labs will be on an epic 2,000-mile road trip—in an automated vehicle.
Engineering project manager and lead driver Sara Sargent stresses this isn’t your ordinary road trip, with side stops at Mount Rushmore and the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.
“The Automated Drive West is not about proving anything. It’s about discovery,” she said.
The trip will help VSI validate the benefits of using enhanced GPS technology and precision lanes models to improve the performance and safety of their applications. It will also show the team how the technologies operate in different terrains and driving conditions
Let's play "Name that Flyover City"!
We know Google can answer (almost) anything, but try to guess first.
- Graeter's Ice Cream was founded in this city in 1870.
- Hank Williams, Sr. spent the last night of his life in this city.
- This city is home to the world's most famous condiment producer.
Still Curious? Seriously? Ok, click here for the answers.
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