Investors continue to see potential in agtech, as Farmers Business Network (FBN) has secured US$250 million in funding from a group of new and existing investors.
The Series F funding for FBN, announced on Monday, was led by funds managed by New York-based BlackRock Inc., with participation from new investors Baron Capital Group, Balyasny Asset Management, Mandi Ventures, Lupa Systems and Ron Shaich. Existing investors, such as Kleiner Perkins, and funds managed by Fidelity Investments Canada also contributed to the US$250 million amount, which follows a $175 million Series E investment from Kleiner Perkins in January 2019.
According to sources that spoke with Bloomberg, the investment values FBN at about US$1.75 billion — up from US$1.1 billion last year.
The company says it will use the new funds to expand its FBN Direct online marketplace for seed and crop inputs, as well as to build out its FBN Crop Marketing and Financial Services.
“Our mission as a company is to improve the profitability of farming families around the world for generations to come. Many farmers and ranchers were already struggling before the disruption and financial challenges brought on by the pandemic,” says Amol Deshpande, FBN co-founder and CEO, in a company news release. “We will double down on putting farmers first by further investing in technologies that lower costs, improve transparency and create local community development opportunities in rural areas.”
Founded as a Silicon Valley/Midwest U.S.-based startup in 2014, FBN’s initial focus was on aggregating farm-level data to improve price transparency for farmers buying crop inputs. The company has since evolved to also sell seed and other crop inputs through its FBN Direct platform.
FBN entered the Canadian marketplace in 2017, opening an office in High River, Alberta and acquiring crop input retailer Yorkton Distributors at Yorkton, Saskatchewan shortly thereafter.
As of Monday, the company says it has grown to have 12 thousand farm members covering 40 million acres in Canada and the U.S. FBN is also expanding into Australia following the acquisition of Farmsave, an Australian online crop input platform, last month.
As the number of farms has expanded, so has FBN’s workforce, which the company says now consists of over 600 people, with offices in San Carlos, California; Chicago, Illinois; Sioux Falls, S.D.; as well as a Canadian headquarters in High River, Alta. and Australian headquarters in Perth, Australia.
FBN’s entry into the crop input market has not gone without controversy, as Canada’s Competition Bureau launched an investigation in February 2020 into allegations that several crop input manufacturers and wholesalers have “anti-competitively refused to supply or restricted supply to Farmers Business Network Canada.” The companies under investigation include BASF, Bayer, Cargill, Corteva, Federated Co-op, Univar Solutions and Winfield.