Taranis acquires ag aerial imagery company as sector ‘roll-up’ kicks off

Ofir Schlam, chief executive officer at the Finistere Ventures portfolio company, tells Agri Investor the transaction shows start-ups can also benefit from inorganic growth.

Precision agriculture software platform Taranis has acquired the assets of Mavrx, a San Francisco-headquartered provider of agricultural aerial imagery, for an undisclosed sum.

Mavrx uses a fleet of 60 planes flying up to 120 miles an hour above 30 US States to produce high-resolution crop imagery suitable on fields producing more than 30 crops. The company also maintains a fleet of drones capable of flying 30 miles an hour and counts input manufacturers and large farms among its customers.

Under the terms of the deal, all current clients of both companies will be offered the chance to purchase access to a combination of products and services from both firms.

Ofir Schlam, chief executive of Taranis, told Agri Investor that while Taranis’s existing offerings already included satellite imagery offering the broadest, cheapest coverage and more expensive proprietary imagery capable of identifying an insect on a leaf at the sub-millimeter level, the addition of Mavrx’s aerial assets allows it to offer imagery from the middle of those two extremes.

Most importantly, according to Schlam, the acquisition allows Taranis to offer UHR technology that captures the kind of images that are often used by growers, retailers and insurance companies, such as a whole field at 8-centimeter resolution. Schlam also said the addition of Mavrx’s operations capacity, including its fleet of planes and drones, allows Taranis to offer customers the ability to analyze any farm in the US within five days.

Schlam declined to disclose the size of the transaction, but did say that the two companies had spent more than $30 million in research and development costs.

The Roll-up

Last May, California-headquartered agtech venture capital firm Finistere Ventures helped lead a $7.5 million Series A round for Taranis. Last week, Finistere partner Arama Kukutai said the acquisition of Mavrx provided Tel Aviv-headquartered Taranis with an opportunity to expand its presence in the Americas and expand the services the company offers its clients.

“With too many sub-scale players in digital ag, this type of roll-up is going to be more commonplace as best-in-class players consolidate their position,” said Kukutai, who identified the Taranis investment opportunity.

At the 2017 Agri Investor Forum in October, a participant in an agtech discussion (held under Chatham House rules prohibiting the identification of individual participants) also described the market as marked by a “natural reallocation to the winners” characterized as a roll-up of intellectual property.

“The idea is not just picking winners, but surviving as the roll-up happens,” the participant advised. “When a firm goes down, quite often the best IP goes somewhere else where it is better deployed.”

Schlam said that there were private equity, venture capital and even corporate investors “well aware” of the opportunity to invest in Mavrx, but that Taranis’s speed was part of what helped it secure the deal.

“It proves that start-ups can be the right players to benefit from inorganic growth,” Schlam said. “The fact that we can act very, very fast and close a deal like this before anyone from the corporate world would probably get enough time to run their due diligence process was a very strong factor in this transaction. We feel confident enough that we really know what to do with the technology to make it worth it.”