Aussie agtech startup Agriwebb has secured a massive $30 million in Series B funding, giving it a valuation of over $100 million.
And, as this sector heats up on a global scale, there are huge opportunities for Australian players, co-founder and chair Justin Webb says.
Founded in 2014 by Webb and co-founders John Fargher and Kevin Baum, Agriwebb offers a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service livestock-management platform, designed to help farmers digitise operations and increase efficiency.
This latest funding round was led by the venture arm of Canadian telco TELUS, and also included a $5 million investment from the Australian government-backed Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
It follows a $14 million Series A round closed back in August 2018, which also saw the business acquire FarmWizard, a UK provider of livestock software.
Since then, it’s been able to double down on its success in Australia, Webb says, and start to establish a footprint in international markets too.
Productivity and sustainability
According to Webb, the startup has seen its revenues double, year-on-year, for the past six years.
But, he says he and the co-founders measure their success not in revenue dollars, but in ‘animals under management’, and they’re not doing too badly here either.
Agriwebb’s technology is now used in the management of 14 million animals, worldwide, and has a double-digit market share of livestock in Australia.
“That’s the unit of impact we can have,” he explains.
What Webb calls the “global commercial herd” is made up of 800 million cattle, he says.
Success for Agriwebb will look like having 150 million of those on its systems. Already, the team is accessing data-sets that could support ecosystem-wide growth and innovation, Webb explains.
Increasing global market share will mean real strides towards more efficient and therefore more sustainable farming.
“That can influence amazing things,” he says.
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“Let’s make sure we can sustainably feed the world and its increasing demand for healthy protein.”
The funding will be used partly to further double down on overseas growth, with a particular focus on the UK and the Americas.
But, the $5 million committed from CEFC, through the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, is pegged for investment in tools to track methane emissions from livestock and carbon sequestration levels in soil.
Reducing the environmental impact of farming is a big focus for this business, heading into 2021, and beyond.
“Ultimately, we’ve got to feed 10 billion people by 2050, we’ve got to do so by not by cultivating any more land — we’ve already done that — and we need to reduce methane emissions,” Webb says.
“That’s the productivity problem, and technology is box-seated for productivity problems.”
The year of Aussie agtech?
Agriwebb has bagged one of the first significant Aussie funding rounds of 2021 so far. And, according to Webb, that’s indicative of “an exciting growth space”, both internationally and right here at home.
The global climate crisis is leading to an ever-increasing demand for responsibly grown and responsibly produced food. People want to know where their food has come from, how it’s grown, and what impact it’s had on the environment.
Therefore, there’s a demand for tech to help farmers make those assurances.
“Innovation is very consumer-led,” Webb notes.
“If it’s not, what’s the purpose of that innovation?”
Australia could not be better placed to take advantage of this.
For Webb, if there’s one thing that stood out in the local tech scene in 2020, it was the growth of the VC sector, and the billions of dollars firms now have in the bank, ready to invest in all manner of startups.
And this local market has “a real competitive advantage within agtech”.
He points to the diversity of farming styles, climates, and produce grown in Australia, and our international significance in terms of exports.
So, if a business can demonstrate success in agtech in Australia, it can generally expand anywhere in the world and turn head there too.
“We really lead on a global level,” he says.