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Indigo Marketplace attracts $12bn in specialty grain supply

Indigo Ag has raised a total of $650m in private equity financing, with its most recent round valuing the company at $3.5bn.

Indigo Ag’s Marketplace has listed $12 billion in grower inventory for the five crops covered by its e-commerce platform since its September launch, the company’s chief executive says.

Speaking last week at the Columbia University’s Global Business Forum in New York, David Perry described Marketplace as a key component of the firm’s effort to de-commoditize agriculture, which he said is a key step towards incentivizing sustainable production.

“I’ve been running technology companies for the last 22 years,” said Perry, who held executive positions with life science and pharmaceutical companies before joining Indigo in 2015. “Marketplace is the single fastest-growing thing I’ve ever been associated with.”

Indigo uses algorithms and machine learning to develop microbial products that increase yields and manage pests. The Boston-based company’s products have been commercially available since 2017.

Its Marketplace digitally connects potential buyers of corn, soy, cotton, rice and wheat directly with farmers in Indigo’s network to communicate production practice preferences and their desire for specific characteristics like protein content and milling quality. This allows farmers to shift their focus from quantity to quality, while helping their customers meet increasingly specific consumer demand, Perry said.

Since the platform launched in September, Marketplace has attracted $17 billion in bids and facilitated $12 billion in farm supply, Perry said, adding that both measures are growing at about $2 billion a month.

Last month, Indigo announced an agreement with Anheuser-Busch to supply the brewer with 2.2 million bushels of Indigo Rice at a premium that allows farmers to make an additional $30 to $60 per acre.

Perry said most US farmers are making around $50 an acre and described Indigo as a mission-focused company focused on improving farm profitability, environmental sustainability and consumer health.

Perry devoted much of his presentation at the forum to the role agriculture can play in efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Agricultural producers could be incentivized to play a bigger role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by selling carbon credits derived from sequestering carbon in agricultural soils, Perry argued. Such credits could be sold to consumer-facing companies, governments or other interested parties at a price of around $20 per ton – far below current carbon emissions credit price levels of around $40 per ton on European markets.

“The ability of agricultural soils to sequester atmospheric carbon is the single most optimistic thing I know about with regard to climate change,” Perry said. “We could sequester all of the excess CO2 human beings have put into the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution if we can take every cultivated acre from [containing] one percent [carbon] to three percent.”

Indigo, which was founded in 2014, has raised about $650 million in private equity capital and its most recent fundraising round valued the company at $3.5 billion, Perry said. Indigo’s investors have included the Alaska Permanent Fund, the Investment Corporation of Dubai, growth capital firm Activant Capital and UK investment manager Baillie Gifford.

It operates in five countries and expects to have more than 4.5 million acres planted with its seeds by the end of 2019.

Editors note: This story was updated to reflect the $12 billion figure as grain supply on Indigo Marketplace, not transactions facilitated.