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Indigo Manufactures Crops Coated in Beneficial Microbes
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Indigo Manufactures Crops Coated in Beneficial Microbes

Views: 0     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2018-06-26      Origin: Site

Indigo manufactures cotton, corn, wheat, soybean, and rice seeds coated in beneficial microbes to help withstand stressors such as heat and drought and use fewer chemicals, such as waterproof shade net. The company buys that crop back from farmers for a premium based on its sustainability credentials. Indigo Agriculture, the ag tech start-up best known for plant microbiome technology.

Indigo is rolling out the platform via its research initiative Indigo Research Partners, a collaboration between Indigo and 50 large U.S. growers initially launched in 2017 to research Indigo’s microbial products and give farmers information about their efficacy in different environments, conditions and crop types. Indigo has expanded the scope of the program to test third-party digital and biological ag start-up technologies across Indigo Research Partners' 25,000 dedicated acres, as well as collecting production data from those farmers' 500,000 acres in total in what the company is calling the "world's largest agricultural lab."

"Our goal is not to endorse technologies, but to understand what value they bring and find those that can bring farmers enhanced profitability; if a product we trial brings value, we will incorporate it into one of our systems on the commercial side," said Knight. “For example, in wheat, we could start providing farmers with the seed, the microbes, and a sensor-based technology that will turn an irrigator on and off and use the right amount of water.”

Indigo is currently trialing five startups, gathering 129 different data streams — such as soil temperature and moisture at different depths, humidity, wind speed — but the startup is understood to be speaking to several more startups about joining the initiative. Which is focused on increasing the sustainability and traceability of agriculture shade net, says it hopes to alleviate pain points for both start ups and growers with this initiative. For growers, the challenge lies in working out what exactly underpins a good yield as well as evaluating the many different technologies on the market.

There's no gold standard by which to evaluate new technologies in agriculture. Companies release their own data, which is neither standardized nor formally judged, and growers are left to sort through it, deciding what (if anything) they might believe. In this confusion, it's often easiest and least expensive for growers to stick with what they know — with what they've been using on their farm for years. The consequences of this are profound: instead of all input decisions being driven by data, they are largely driven by marketing, brand, and power. This makes life harder for farmers and creates barriers to entry for new innovations, slowing the pace at which the industry can adapt to modern consumer and environmental needs.

Some industry VCs questioned whether startups would be willing to share their valuable data with Indigo in return for distribution, which will take a while to reach the heights of existing channels.

"Start ups need to figure out distribution faster than the incumbents can figure out the technology, so clearly new distribution channels will be important for industry disruption," said Rob Leclerc, CEO of AgFunder, the agrifood industry’s online venture capital platform. “However, data is a moat for most startups so if Indigo is too aggressive coveting data, they risk only attracting second tier agtech companies; this would send a negative signal to the market and investors. Startups will have to think carefully if the distribution is worth the risk.”

Indigo plans to expand Indigo Research Partners' network to 100 growers by the end of the year and will be onboarding wheat farmers this fall and more spring crop growers next spring, according to a spokesperson. The company, which says it has $500 million in revenues booked, is also looking at global plant support net expansion to Australia and South America. They are developing a new approach to agricultural R&D that will enable data-based decisions and promote continuous improvement across technologies.

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