At Monsanto, we’re always looking for unique problem-solving solutions to better aid farmers in reaching their goals. While we have some of the brightest minds in the industry working to provide these solutions, we understand that great ideas also happen outside our walls.

That’s where Monsanto Growth Ventures (MGV) comes in. MGV is the venture capital arm of Monsanto tasked with creating a portfolio of opportunities that could be strategically interesting to the company. To do so, MGV invests in emerging teams and ideas that may be useful in modern agriculture.

“We focus on all the potential tools, practices, and technologies that can be brought to bear to improve modern ag overall. We invest early and work with our portfolio companies to help further those ideas,” explained Kiersten Stead, MGV Investment Director.

Vital Fields

Based in San Francisco, MGV is at the epicenter of the United States venture capital sector which has invested $4.4 billion in the agriculture and food sectors in the first half of 2017 alone.  And although California is often known for digital technology, agriculture is a $54 billion industry in the state.

The San Francisco headquarters allows the group to review and evaluate more than 500 investment opportunities a year. Based on an interweaving set of conditions, MGV invests in approximately 1 percent of the opportunities presented. There are 16 companies in the MGV portfolio ranging from biotechnology to microbes, as well as software, marketplaces and connected devices.

In addition to the monetary investment, MGV can provide access to collaborative opportunities with Monsanto.

“Similar to other venture capital firms, we expect that a portion of our investments won’t be successful. That being said, a successful investment can take many different forms,” said Stead. “With a successful investment Monsanto may acquire the company, join together in partnership, or simply learn about an area of interest that we wouldn’t have been able to explore otherwise.”

One instance of this is using computer vision and artificial intelligence to detect, identify, and make crop protection management decisions for combating plant pathogens. That work is being done in a MGV portfolio company, Resson.

“Resson’s predictive monitoring platform will help to reduce crop protection applications, prevent or reduce pathogen spread, and provide customers with more clarity into their supply chain over several crops” said Ryan Rakestraw, MGV Investment Principal.
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“Resson’s predictive monitoring platform will help to reduce crop protection applications, prevent or reduce pathogen spread, and provide customers with more clarity into their supply chain over several crops” said Ryan Rakestraw, MGV Investment Principal.

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The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto, acquired two companies from the MGV portfolio: HydroBio in May 2017, and Vital Fields in November 2016.

HydroBio is an agriculture software company based in Denver, Co that uses a combination of crop models, satellite imagery, soil data and hyper-local weather data to deliver irrigation insights for farmers to help improve crop water-use efficiency and maximize yields. Its unique data-driven irrigation management platform generates actionable information via custom irrigation prescriptions for optimized water application. Prior to the acquisition, Monsanto Europe launched AquaTEK, a commercial irrigation management tool for corn that is powered by HydroBio’s irrigation management platform.

Resson

Similarly, VitalFields is an Estonia-based farm management software company currently operating in seven European countries. VitalFields is a suite of cloud-based tools and accompanying mobile apps to help farmers plan, manage, and analyze their field activities. Using VitalFields, farmers can create plant disease and growth phase models, track climate patterns, as well as generate simplified tracking and reports to ensure compliance with European Union environmental standards.

These technologies complement our Climate Fieldview digital agriculture platform to provide farmers with additional assets for their modern ag toolbox.

Each year, MGV explores a variety of companies for possible inclusion in our investment portfolio which we will continue to expand in our quest to help farmers maximize their fields’ potential. To explore more of MGV’s current investments, please visit https://monsanto.com/company/monsanto-growth-ventures/.