The agriculture industry is the single largest source of jobs in the world. In fact, 40% of the globe relies on it for income. And yet, when it comes to attracting technological innovation, agriculture has been relatively barren--until now.
Solum, a tech company founded by Stanford physics and engineering graduates 2009, aims to change that. The start-up's technology obtains high-level soil nutrient information through hardware and software solutions previously unavailable to the agricultural community. With its just-completed $17 million series B round led by Silicon Valley venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, Solum might have a better shot at shaking up the ag-tech space.
The tie between Andreessen and Solum marks a shift from the VC firm's track record of social media investments, but Solum CEO Nick Koshnick says Andreessen has been behind the need for technology and data in the agricultural space for years. In fact, Mark Andreessen even wrote an Op-Ed piece a year ago for the Wall Street Journal on the need for software in the agricultural space.
“Agriculture is increasingly powered by software,” Andreessen wrote. “Including satellite analysis of soils linked to per-acre seed selection software algorithms.”
Solum moves beyond widely used satellite technology to provide on-site data anlysis for farmers. The technology, Solum claims, is more accurate and efficient than simple field analysis. Its two products--the No-Wait Nitrate system, a tool to make immediate soil-nitrate level measurements, and the Readout Ready field lab, used to measure the soil's nutrients and micro-nutrients--are designed to help farmers optimize their land and increase their crop output.
“We’re creating data that improves the livelihood of farmers and is really good for the environment,” Koshnick says.
Solum hopes to build out its engineering team with the funding, as Koshnick says the company is collecting a lot of data that now needs to be managed. Andreessen Horowitz General Partner John O’Farrell will also join the Solum board.
“Solum’s advanced technology and software offer the world's agricultural producers a substantially smarter way to measure and manage large-scale crop production,” O’Farrell said in a press release. “This combination of brilliant technologists tackling a really important problem with huge global market potential represents an excellent fit with our investment philosophy."