At Lewis & Clark AgriFood, headquartered in St. Louis, MO, our job is to invest at the intersection of agriculture, food, and technology. By many measures, the food and agriculture industries are among the least digitized industries remaining. That status is rapidly changing, however, as we see many innovative companies bringing software, sensors and automation to market, helping to make our food system safer and more efficient. Below, we highlight two such companies in our portfolio that sit within the “messy middle” of the food and agriculture supply chain: Fargo-based Bushel Inc. and Toronto-based BinSentry.
Bushel is a market leader in digitally connecting the commodity agriculture industry from the farm gate to consumer packaged goods (CPGs). The company was formed around two simple ideas: 1) Digitize the scale ticket, and 2) Strengthen the relationship between grain buyers and sellers. Today, 1,500+ grain receiving locations across the U.S. and Canada use Bushel products and services to share information faster, complete transactions more efficiently and give their farmers more insight into commodity management. Bushel’s flagship mobile app is sold to grain originators, most often local elevators and processors, and is given away to their farmer base. The mobile app is also branded to the local grain facility, keeping brand equity at a local level within the grain facility’s farmer base. Farmers can then use their local grain facility’s mobile app to check daily prices, view their contracts, see the scale tickets delivered against those contracts, electronically sign contracts and more. Bushel is highly skilled at building technology integrations, as they had to build connections with every grain facility-facing ERP and accounting system with significant market share. In addition, Bushel’s focus on user experience and product design allows easy, intuitive and fast onboarding for both the grain facility and farmer.
Going forward, Bushel intends to leverage this unique connectivity ability to add additional attributes to grain that CPG companies and other agribusinesses are demanding. By seamlessly connecting originators, millers, processors and CPGs, Bushel is building an ecosystem that can finally efficiently deliver identity-preserved attributes to the commodity grain industry. We expect this technology to provide a significant benefit to the farmer. Our hope is that Bushel can be the conduit through which the farmer can finally get paid for the sustainable practices they are implementing, in turn adding more economic value back to rural communities.
BinSentry is an Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) company developing solutions to facilitate increased efficiency for feed mills and livestock producers. Their Generation One feed inventory sensor (based on the same technology that guides autonomous vehicles) installs on the top of feed bins in less than ten minutes and accurately tracks volume and tonnage so that feed mills are equipped with timely and accurate data, enabling proactive inventory and farm management decisions.
The technology is a win-win for the industry. Producers benefit as BinSentry’s inventory tracking algorithms deliver actionable insights to better prevent feed outages, which reduces animal mortality and delivers better insights into Feed Conversion Ratio. Feed mills experience advantage as they leverage BinSentry insights to increase the efficiency of their operations; planning production and delivery runs further in advance, reducing miles driven per ton delivered and making ingredient purchasing decisions more intelligently and efficiently.
Recognizing the opportunities for cost-savings, feed producers and integrators typically provide the BinSentry service to the producer free-of-charge, even though both parties benefit.
Perhaps the most invaluable benefit of all is that BinSentry technology eliminates the need for a worker from either group to perform the dangerous task of climbing to the top of the bin to check on the feed levels manually – ensuring the safety of employees operating on-farm.
Lewis & Clark AgriFood is a St. Louis-based group of experienced investment professionals that are passionate about investing in companies that are at the forefront of food and agriculture innovation. We look for companies that deliver benefits to all stakeholders in the food and agriculture sector, from the producer, through the supply chain, all the way to the consumer. We invest in companies that are at the “growth” stage of their evolution, poised to scale their technology to a national or global scale. As operators, investors and scientists, our seasoned investment team brings a breadth of quality sector experience to every investment.
To learn more about how you can integrate innovative technology in your agribusiness, please contact Sikich.
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About Our Guest Author
Larry Page, Ph.D., Principal, Lewis & Clark AgriFood
As a Principal at Lewis & Clark, Larry is responsible for leading deals through the entire life cycle of investment, from sourcing through governance and exit. He has led seven investments on behalf of the firm and has served in a governance capacity for five portfolio companies. Larry specializes in technical deals in traits and crop protection and in companies at the forefront of the digital revolution in agriculture.