Lightsmith backs farm management software with $60m

Founder Jay Koh says volatility in fuel and fertilizer prices should support demand for Solinftec’s ALICE AI platform, which automates planting, spraying, harvesting and tendering of crops.

The Lightsmith Group drew from its climate adaptation fund to support a $60 million investment into Solinftec, a farm management software provider focused on efficiency in farm operations.

Solinftec’s software uses sensors, computers and displays inside farm equipment to produce real-time in-field data on crops, equipment, inputs and weather conditions. Its ALICE AI platform offers customers the ability to automate planting, spraying, harvesting, tendering crops and the company has recently developed a robot to autonomously scan and monitor fields.

Headquartered in West Lafayette, Indiana, and established in 2007, Solinftec maintains an office in the city of Araçatuba in Brazil, where its software is already used on 27 million acres.

“That is a lot more acres than many other companies,” Lightsmith managing director Sanjay Wagle told Agri Investor. “We look for great growth-stage companies worldwide: the US, Europe and key emerging markets countries like India and Brazil. We’ve looked in all those places for data software and technology companies addressing agriculture, call it agricultural analytics or precision agriculture.”

Wagle explained that whereas many farm management software platforms focus on provision of agronomic advice, Solinftec’s service aims to streamline farm operations that are increasingly threatened by climate-related disruptions.

“That’s where we found a lot of the gap was between ideal performance and actual performance in the real world. That’s where a lot of the waste, extra costs and sustainability costs are,” Wagle added.

Lightsmith was joined in the growth investment round by unnamed technology and impact-focused investors as well as Sao Paulo, Brazil-headquartered Unbox Capital and Circularis Partners, an affiliate of TPG ART. Capital from the round will be devoted to sales and operations staff to support continued growth in North and South America and engineering to expand use of robots in gathering data.

Lightsmith founder Jay Koh told Agri Investor that as agricultural inputs such as fuel and fertilizer become more expensive, the demand for technology that helps increase efficiency is likely to grow. The recurring revenue provided by Solinftec’s established customer base, he added, will continue to draw the attention of investors.

“Unlike other potential investments where volatility in the food and ag sector might have different effects on potential deployment or adoption, our belief is that this kind of investment, which increases efficiency and reduces costs in an extremely calculable way, should have even more of a growth wind at its back,” he said.

In February, Lightsmith closed its Climate Resilience Fund closed on $186 million after securing commitments from investors that included Caprock Impact Partners, the Rockefeller Foundation and UN-backed Green Climate Fund.

Ag-related investments from the vehicle include Scottsdale, Arizona-headquartered SOURCE Global, which offers technology capable of producing drinking water from sunlight and air and WayCool Foods, an Indian agri-commerce platform.