Finistere backs precision ag software company

Participation in the $7.5m Series A round for Tel Aviv-based software provider Taranis follows the firm's recent hire of two Israel based venture partners.

In its first investment in an Israeli company since bringing on Tel-Aviv-based executives last week, agtech venture capital firm Finistere Ventures has helped lead a $7.5 million Series A financing round for Taranis, a precision agriculture software company.

Finistere and Vertex Ventures led the funding round and were joined by existing Taranis investors Eshbol Investments, Mindset Ventures, OurCrowd and Eyal Gura. Taranis has raised a total of $9.5 million and plans to use the new capital to expand large-scale trials of the product within the US, according to a company statement.

Two recently-hired executives, Gil Meron and Eyal Rosenthal, who previously worked with Finistere as consultants, were involved in the Taranis transaction, Finistere co-founder Arama Kukutai told Agri Investor.

Kukutai also confirmed that the investment came from the Finistere Ventures II, which held a first close on $37.5 million in February 2015 and had raised $60.6 million towards its $200 million target from seven investors as of July.

Kukutai said Finistere was attracted to Taranis both for its unique focus on pest and disease control and its use of Latin America as a testing ground for the large-scale application of its software.

Taranis’s software analyzes sub-millimeter level imagery captured from cameras placed on crop-dusters to gather information about crop diseases, pests and weather patterns. The company says its software can help users predict and prevent crop threats in any climate zone, improve yields and minimize fertilizer use.

“Solving for the major agronomic decisions is clearly what you need to be able to do in order to build a valuable solution set for the farmer or the agronomist working with the farmer,” he said.

Founded in 2015, Taranis’s software is already in use by farmers who have purchased it to help manage millions of acres of farmland across Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Israel and the US, the statement said. The software is currently being used on crops including corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, sugarcane and potatoes and can be customized by crop type, according to Kukutai.

Kukutai added that Taranis and its application of “deep-learning” technology capable of analyzing multiple data layers through cloud computing was just an example of how Israel’s burgeoning technology sector is influencing agricultural innovation.

“Machine learning is much more efficient at figuring out [what the farmer should do], whether its optimization of spray or treatment application… or simply holding off because the risk of outbreak is calculated to be lower,” he said. “The more data we collect, the better the analytics and predictability becomes.”

Founded in 2005, Finistere holds offices in Tel Aviv, San Diego and Palo Alto, California.