Deere leads $16M funding round in agritech startup InnerPlant

Sep. 20, 2022 11:17 AM ETDeere & Company (DE)SP500By: Rob Williams, SA NY

Harvesting a wheat field, dust clouds

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Deere & Co. (NYSE:DE) led a $16 million series A funding round in InnerPlant, a startup that’s developing technologies to give farmers earlier warnings about crop health, according to an announcement.

InnerPlant, which is based in Davis, California, in 2018 began its work on creating genetically engineered plants that signal when they’re stressed. Those indicators can include a need for water, pesticide or fertilizer.

“These signals are collected by satellites to provide large-scale affordable next-gen scouting tools,” according to InnerPlant’s website. “Deere’s equipment completes the chain by scanning each plant and acting based on their individual needs.”

MS&AD Ventures, which led a $5.65 million seed round in InnerPlant last year, participated in the latest fundraising, along with Bee Partners and UpWest.

"The investment in InnerPlant furthers our commitment to help farmers be more profitable, more sustainable and more productive – by managing their operations at the plant level," a Deere spokesperson said by email.

“There’s still a lot of work to do as we gear up for the soft launch of our InnerSoy product in 2024,” Shely Aronov, co-founder and CEO of Innerplant, said in the Sept. 19 statement, “but today’s announcement is a critical milestone and we’re grateful to all of our investors, partners and farmers who’ve joined us on this journey.”

Deere has invested in making more advanced farming equipment. The innovations include its self-driving tractors and See & Spray system that can tell the difference between crops and weeds when applying herbicides.

Among Deere's recent investment activity, the company last month bought a minority interest in Hello Tractor, which has been described as the "Uber of tractors" in Africa. Deere last year acquired majority ownership in battery technology company Kreisel Electric, and also bought Bear Flag Robotics for $250 million to support farming automation.

Deere this year has risen 1.8% to $356.49 a share as of the morning of Sept. 20, contrasting with a 19% decline for the S&P 500 Stock Index (SP500).

Seeking Alpha contributor Luca Socci has a Hold rating on Deere (DE) because of the company's valuation. Columnist Leo Nelissen rates Deere (DE) as a Buy on rising demand and fewer supply chain issues.

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