Monsanto and 4490 lead $7.5m raise for weather data company

Understory Weather, whose backers include the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, sells its weather sensor technology to insurance companies.

Monsanto Growth Ventures and Wisconsin-based 4490 Ventures have led a $7.5 million funding round for weather data provider Understory Weather. Existing investors True Ventures, RRE Ventures and SK Ventures contributed to the round, as did newcomer CSA Partners.

True Ventures partner Puneet Argarwal and 4490 Ventures managing director Greg Robinson will join the Understory board of directors.

4490 Ventures is a tech-focused investment fund backed by the State of Wisconsin Investment Board and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Now based in Boston, Understory will move its headquarters to Madison.

Understory’s ground-based weather-sensing networks are used by insurance companies looking for new ways to verify claims and quantify risk, in Kansas City, Boston and Dallas.

Understory says it provides “hyper-local” data from weather events like tornadoes and hail storms, identifying hard-hit areas and giving insurers more information when dealing with policy holders in the immediate aftermath of a weather event. It will use the funding for product development and more sales and marketing staff, a company representative told Agri Investor. 

They added that the company plans to expand into new markets, possibly including weather broadcasting, agriculture and forecasting, in the first half of 2016.

Understory chief executive officer Alex Kubicek said in a statement that volatility driven by climate change has made precision monitoring of weather events and their impact a necessity for multiple industries:

“Currently, weather impacts billions of dollars of business activity across nearly every aspect of the US economy. The north-eastern United States alone has seen a 74 percent increase in the amount of rain or snow falling in the heaviest storms since 1958.”

Kiersten Stead, principal for Monsanto Growth Ventures, said that the new technology could help growers better manage their farms, adding: “We are building off our acquisition of The Climate Corporation, who are truly committed to offering stronger analytics for the agriculture industry.” The investment arm of Monsanto bought data science company Climate Corp for nearly $1 billion in 2013. It also has an investment in AgSolver, which develops software and analytic systems for more sustainable land management, valuation and business planning.