Smart irrigation system startup CropX is the latest agricultural tech company in a growing list to get investor funding.
Today the company is announcing $9 million in funding from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors, as well as GreenSoil Investments and Finistere Ventures.
CropX is a mobile app that uses sensors around a farm to collect data about topography, soil structure, and moisture levels and determine the exact amount of water needed for each crop field. Farmers tend to overwater crops, which can lead to crop rot and field runoff (runoff occurs when a field becomes oversaturated with water and the excess, often contaminated with fertilizer and other chemicals, flows into nearby waterways).
There are strict rules about farm runoff. Very little is permitted to end up in waterways, which are regularly tested near farms. Also, considering the drought in California, water is not exactly a resource that farmers can afford to waste.
But traditionally, exact data about resource management was only accessible by large farms with the financial resources to afford it. What companies like CropX stand to do is put more data in the hands of small farmers, a market that an increasing number of startups are targeting.
Earlier this month, Google Ventures led a $15 million investment in the Farmers Business Network, a giant database of information on farms all over the U.S. and best practices for yielding the largest number of crops.
What’s most interesting about data-driven farming is that it allows family-owned businesses to run more sustainably minded businesses by default.
“Sustainability is a fundamental plank of innovation in this space,” said Arama Kukutai, cofounder and partner at Finistere Ventures.
He said farmers are expecting to have to feed 9 billion mouths by 2050, making productivity a chief concern for any farming operation. However, because of an increasing focus on quality food, more farmers are rethinking the way they use agricultural chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizer.
“There’s demand for healthier food. Not just more, but better. Improved nutrition and nutritional value,” said Kukutai.
Having access to broad swathes of farming data through companies like CropX and the Farmers Business Network could lead to healthier food production overall. If data shows that it makes more financial sense for farmers to act sustainably by using less water, less fertilizer, and fewer chemicals, to yield more and better crops, they will.