Australia’s goFARM leads $3m raise in US water tech company

SWIIM says its auditing and planning software will help growers manage and trade scarce water resources, and could even kick-start self-regulation.

Agricultural investment group goFARM Australia has led a $3 million funding round for an American water management software developer.

Until now, SWIIM has offered its water-use Planner and Manager software packages to Colorado farmers on a temporary basis, to prove its product works in the field.

The company will use the capital from this Series A round to establish permanent operations in both Colorado and California, SWIIM chief executive Kevin France told Agri Investor. He said the company eventually plans to expand across the United States, and could even become a vehicle for farmers to join forces and self-regulate their water usage.

SWIIM’s focus on conservation reflects the problem of water scarcity facing the US southwest. France said goFarm’s experience in water-management issues in Australia made them an ideal partner, bringing “intellectual capital” as well as about half of the $3 million raise to bring SWIIM to commercial scale. Australian water regulation saw a complete overhaul during the last decade, driven by an epic drought that threatened to cripple the country’s agriculture sector.

“They went to the school of hard knocks when it comes to the need for water conservation,” said France.

Water depletion is increasingly attracting technological solutions, which require research and investment. In the US it is the agricultural powerhouse of California, SWIIM’s next place of expansion, which has suffered most.

SWIIM’s Planner and Manager software programmes are the result of a five 5-year collaboration between the company, the United States Department of Agriculture and Colorado and Utah State Universities.

SWIIM Planner draws on public data as well as site-specific information added by each user, such as the size of their cultivated land and specifics about soil or crop composition to design crop plans that optimise water use. The results, said France, are plans that maximise water efficiency, including cropping inventories and suggested irrigation techniques for individual fields.

By providing a means to measure water conservation, said France, SWIIM’s software also provides an incentive for farmers to use water efficiently. SWIIM Manager allows water authorities to monitor and report improvements in conservation by users of the Planner software. Quantifying conserved water, he said, gives farmers the opportunity to sell it back either to other end-users or the water authority. By facilitating more efficient water trade, SWIIM’s software gives users a stake in market-based changes to water regulation that are inevitable in California, he added.

“The regulation is coming. It’s just a matter of farmers getting in front of it,” said France. He added that stronger monitoring capabilities provided by software like his could help growers band together and self-regulate in a model similar to that of US financial markets.

France, who has national and international ambitions for SWIIM, hopes the company will provide monitoring on 40,000 acres of farmland in California and Colorado by the end of 2016.