Temasek leads $110m funding round for Farmers Business Network

Also backed by T. Rowe Price, GV and others, the agri data social network's latest capital-raising is seen as a step towards an eventual IPO.

T. Rowe Price and Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek have led a $110 million Series D funding round for agricultural data-focused Farmers Business Network, according to media reports.

They were joined in the round by Campbell’s Soup-affiliate Acre Ventures, DBL Partners and GV, which also led a $40 million Series C round for the San Carlos, California-headquartered company in March.

The new capital brings the company’s total fundraising to about $200 million.

Founded in 2014, FBN is a subscription-based social network on which farmers can anonymously share data related to seed performance and input pricing in exchange for a $600 annual membership fee. The social network has grown to also encompass technology experts, advisors and investors and the FBN platform now also includes crop marketing and financing platforms.

“The ways in which farmers do business had not been touched by e-commerce and social networks like other consumer industries before,” Charles Baron, co-founder and vice-president of product, told CNBC.

FBN’s network is largely composed of row crop farmers but reportedly includes farmers of more than 25 crops across 42 states. The new capital will be used to expand the network into cattle farming and Canada with medium-term plans calling for an expansion into Asia.

Actionable intelligence

Bruce Sherrick, a professor at the University of Illinois and director of the TIAA Center for Farmland Research, told Agri Investor that the Series D investment in FBN comes amid a surge of interest that has followed a series of high-profile investments into ag-related software and data, most prominently DuPont’s $300 million acquisition of Granular, an ag data platform, in August.

“Everybody has begun to look for enough bandwidth to make sure that their acquisitions are either acquirable or target-proof and I can’t see this as anything other than continued collapse of the IP space in agtech,” he said.

Sherrick said that FBN’s focus is likely to shift towards improving the quality of data collected on its platform and expanding the way it is used, given that innovation in agricultural software has moved towards creating actionable intelligence from the reams of data collected by various devices.

“The idea to buy into the data network at a level that’s already device-agnostic, that feels like a nice movement forward,” he said.

While FBN’s stated goal of moving towards an IPO is shared by many companies, Sherrick said, there are a variety of potential exits for the company’s investors and the ultimate path is hard to predict. In addition to the potential for a strategic acquisition by a competitor, there is also a chance, he suggested, that a mainstream software company developing an agricultural product would be interested in acquiring FBN’s data and access to the accompanying network.