Although technology arrived later to agriculture than to other industries, the fields are catching up. In recent years, more startups and venture capitalists have set their sights on this ancient industry, and innovation is already changing the rules of the game for farmers. Fact is that agriculture is one of the biggest markets in the world and all the agricultural process clearly have a big margin to benefit from data science, wireless technologies and software in the cloud.

In Spain, one of the startups that is already providing solutions to manage the daily life of a farm without farmers having to step off the tractor is Agroptima.

To know a bit more about this startup and how the agricultural industry is being disrupted with new software tools we have interviewed Emilia Vila, co-founder and CEO at Agroptima.

itnig: Hi Emilia! You have experience launching different startups in different industries. Why did you decided to startup in agriculture with Agroptima?

Emilia: In a previous start-up ( my co-founder and me talked to farmers very often. We realised how frustrated they were when it came to optimize their crops and analyze their performance. They had poor software tools and no data.

We also saw an increasing amount of data coming from IoT devices: drones, sensors and machines. We realised we could build the Google Analytics for farmers. And that is what Agroptima is, short and sweet 🙂

We were also super motivated to have the chance to revolutionize a vast industry, which faces so many challenges in this century. For example, do you know how we will feed the world by 2050? We will have to increase food production by 70%. With Agroptima we know we can have a great impact in this world and that motivates us everyday.

i: In your opinion, and although the market is big enough, why agriculture has not been attractive to entrepreneurs as fast as other industries?

E: I think it is because most of the entrepreneurs come from the urban world and they focus on solving problems they encounter or products they want to use.

i: You say that Agroptima’s goal is “to dramatically increase agriculture competitiveness through new technologies”. How are you achieving this goal?

E: We are achieving this goal by focusing on the farmer. We are not focusing on intermediaries or other people. We believe that farmers are the key piece to revolutionize agriculture and we are providing them with the right tools.

The first version of Agroptima is already in the market and it is already helping farmers optimize their farms, save time, paper and easily comply with the law. The current version of Agroptima is a mobile app and webapp that allows farmers to keep track of their activities and manage their entire farm resources. This simple tool allows them to get rid of paper and to start gathering data that can be used to make better decisions on crop rotations, plantations or usage of specific products like herbicides, fertilizers, etc.

i: You started Agroptima on February 2014 and launched the beta of your product in September 2014. What happened during that period of time? Could you recall the main steps of the process of creating your product?

E: We have built a team integrated by engineers and a group of farmers. These 6 farmers are very modern, tech friendly and have experience using farm software in the past. We listened to their needs and essentially made the best product upon them. Co-creation is the key.

Before launching Agroptima, farmers tested it in the fields. We scaled step by step with batches of new farmers and finally now Agroptima is already available to anyone and more and more farmers are using it to optimize their farms every day.

i: Farming is mostly dominated by men. How do they handle the fact that the boss of Agroptima is a woman?

E: You are right, actually, farming is mostly dominated by men as it is a hard physical job. However, I am lucky that our community of farmers is very professional and I have never experienced an uncomfortable situation due to gender differences.

i: How about your team? Your co-founders are Ferran Gascon (CTO) and Anisia Tardà (Agricultural Engineer). Did you knew each other before Agroptima or how did you came up to start a business together?

E: I started with Ferran, an online gourmet marketplace, and I have worked with him for a long time. During this experience is where we identified the opportunity of Agroptima.

Meeting Anisia came later thanks to a contact we had in common. We shared a common goal: to bring tech to agriculture and to help farmers be more efficient. When you are so passionate about a common goal, the connection is very strong. In our case, we formed the perfect team (tech, agrotech, business) and we had a great opportunity in front, so we just seized it!

Agroptima’s Team + the farmers (beta testers).

i: As far as I know, you haven’t closed any funding round yet. How have you financially survived until now?

E: We have raised funds thanks to the 9 innovation contests that we have won all around Europe and we have chipped in personal savings.

i: Are you planning to open a funding round in the near future?

E: Yes, we are now actively looking for smart money to help us revolutionize agriculture faster.

i: What is your long term vision for Agroptima and what are your next steps?

E: Our next step is to laser focus on improving what we have and to connect with the farming community. Our long term vision, is to achieve the “interconnected farm” where all the elements and devices are connected and the farmer can manage and optimize the farm from Agroptima.

i: In your opinion, what is the future of agriculture? Will it become a hyper-technified sector with field’s evolution being supervised by drones?

E: For us, the future of agriculture is the involvement of the farmer in technology. Therefore we focus on providing the best technology to the farmer (not intermediaries, advisors, etc.).

We are hyped everyday by new gadgets, sensors, robots, drones… Those technologies will be successful as long as farmers want to use them, as long as they are solving an important pain. If that’s the case, I am sure they will help shape the future of agriculture.

There is no doubt farming activities will have a higher degree of automation and therefore big data, drones and internet of things can be key to provide the inputs necessary to make this possible.

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VCs come into action — Breakdown of Spanish investment activity of January 2018

January closes with €195.3 million investments in Spanish startups within 24 operations

  • The Spanish entrepreneurial ecosystem is maturing thanks to investment rounds of more than €10 millions.
  • Barcelona and Madrid continue leading the Spanish ecosystem.

This is the first in a series of posts in which we will do an analysis of the Spanish startup investment landscape. We will look at the overall funding numbers and trends in the country month by month and compare it with data of the previous year.

What are the Spanish investment activities like on a month to month basis? What deals and volumes are we talking about? At what stages are startups prone to search investment and which regions in Spain attract the most funding?

The year 2017 brought us plenty in terms of innovation and investment activity within the area of technological startups, although Spain has been driven by political problems. The developments we have seen in 2018 so far are picking up at just the same fast pace.

January has closed with €195.3 million investments in Spanish startups within 24 operations. Of these funding rounds, highlights are the round of Cabify, Hawkers and Redpoints :

  • Cabify: The ride-hailing app that competes against Uber, has raised €143.3 million ($160) Series E funding round from a mix of previous and new investors, including Rakuten Capital, TheVentureCity, Endeavor Catalyst, GAT Investments, Liil Ventures and WTI, as well as prominent local investors from Spain and Latin America.

When analyzing the structure of financing deals, the increase in venture capital activity in Jan-18 is noticeable in comparison with Jan-17.

#Deals and volume in the Spanish startup investment landscape in January

In terms of the number of deals closed, we have seen a slight downward trend in the country. With a broad participation of Venture Capital, there have been less deals but more capital invested in each transaction. The reason for such a boost is mostly the gigantic financing round of Cabify with participation of giants’ VCs like Rakuten Capital, TheVentureCity and others.

The entry of European, American and Japanese funds investing in Spanish startups are accounting for a large percentage of the growth of the investments in Spain. At the same time, this global investment rise is making the average value of the financial rounds soar up to more than 1.5 times that of the previous year (without taking account of Cabify’s investment, that would turn this factor to more than 6 times the previous year)

The differences between January-2017 and January 2018 in terms of the increase in venture capital activity is shown below:

Startup investment deals by size of round

As we expected to see, the number of operations closed by investment size tends to a larger number in larger deals. While the number of deals of €500k or less have decreased considerably, the number of larger deals have gone up notably. This might be understood as an increasing number of companies maturing and reaching later stages of funding.

To properly ensure the aforementioned, in the following figure we show the breakdown of the investment activity by year of foundation of the company:

Startup investment activity (Jan-18) by year of foundation

Our previous statement is reinforced by this figure. The large transactions take place on established companies. In general, the more years a startup survives, the more established it is. As we observed, in average, the startups that were previously founded are those who raised more funding. That makes sense because normally an older startup has a bigger team and unless it has reached breakeven, it will need more funds to survive.

Startup investment deals by Region

Regarding the breakdown of startup investments by region, Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia bolster their position in the top of Spanish regions:

  • Cataluña (mostly in Barcelona) stands with 9 deals closed and an investment of €19 millions
  • Madrid gathers 7 deals and an investment of €148 million (€143 million in Cabify)
  • Valencia up to 3 deals and €23 million (€20 million in Hawkers)

Operations January 2018: