InnerPlant expands with John Deere-backed millionaires for sustainable farming

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As the world’s population grows, it is likely that there will be a food crisis by 2050. Therefore, any effort to make farming easier will help farmers grow more food.

Shely Aronov, founder and CEO of InnerPlant, is doing this with her startup which uses plant physiology and gathers loads of data to improve farming’s efficiency and sustainability. Simply put, it uses satellite technology and sensing technologies to allow plants to “talk” with their growers.

Rod Kumimoto and Shely Aronov founded the Davis, California-based firm in 2018. They spent the last four years working in R&D to develop genetically engineered crops that emit early signals, such as when they are thirsty or have a pest attack. This allows farmers to respond quickly.

InnerPlant assists farmers in reducing the use of chemical pesticides and losses due to pathogens like fungal.

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The company raised $5.65m in a seed round 2021, which was led by MS&AD Ventures. Now, the company has $16m in Series A funding. Deere & Co. was the lead of this round, and was joined by MS&AD Ventures and Bee Partners.

InnerPlant has $22 million of total funding as it prepares for its first soybean product launch in 2024. The company will also launch satellites that can communicate with its sensors by 2023.

Aronov said that he now has a very efficient method to develop soybean traits. He also revealed that he is currently working on the first commercial product, which is fungal detection of soybean sensor. “We should have it in field trials next spring, then a soft launch for our Inner Circle members.”

InnerPlant has 75 farmers who work on 400,000 acres. These farmers paid $500 to be the first to have access to the products.

The company now has 18 employees since its seed round. InnerPlant hired Randy Shultz as its R&D head in October. He was previously employed by Inari, Monsanto, and Arcadia Biosciences for similar roles.

Aronov stated that the company also moved into a large laboratory in early 2015. This allowed them to “finally have the place to deploy capital.” The company is now looking to hire more employees in R&D and data engineering, customer success, and marketing.

Deere & Co. continues to innovate on the farm. John Deere’s self driving tractors, and See & Spray targeted technology were announced early this year.

Than Hartsock is the director of soybean and corn production systems at Deere & Co. He told Economic pitch that InnerPlant’s investment reflected his company’s mission to assist farmers in better preparing their land and achieving better crops through precision application technology.

He said, “Our strategy is aiming to be able give the plant the things it needs when it needs them, in many cases at individual plant levels.” Shely and her teams quickly realized that our visions were in sync. This investment represents a commitment to understanding how this solution could improve crop production efficiency. The farmer will be more successful if he is able to eliminate the waste from the system.

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