Starting with Pre-Seed from Bee Partners to Solve a $1T Farming Pain Point with Support from John Deere

September 22, 2022
4 min read
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When Shely Aronov founded InnerPlant in 2018, she focused on one guiding principle - “the most important thing Founders can do is be brave enough to impact the world by taking on the incumbents.”  Global seed supply is complex and not simple to address, 50% of the global supply is controlled by a small few.

Farmer-first innovation in seed technology has remained stagnant since the 1990’s with the introduction of RoundUp Ready seeds.   The rapid and near ubiquitous penetration proved that farmers are willing to test and adopt new technologies.  In this case, a genetically modified seed trait sprouted never before seen pesticide resistant crops.  As a result, farmers’ lives became easier as they could plant and widely apply pesticides to their fields without affecting yields. 

Over time, the near universal embracing of seed technology would begin to negatively impact crop and seed technology innovation.  The industry was set on a complex cycle of having to apply more chemicals as generations of crops became more resistant to the RoundupReady trait.  These chemicals are purchased from the same conglomerates that can then develop hyper-inflated seed pricing.  As a result, farmers today have fewer options for meaningfully reducing inputs and costs.  

Breaking this vicious cycle is NOT easy… but this is the challenge Shely believes in.  Through InnerPlant, she has pioneered a new generation of advanced seed technology that allows farmers to detect problems at the plant level within hours, instead of days or weeks.  The concept is absolutely amazing, here’s a demo of how it works.   

InnerPlant’s patented Smart Seeds will reduce farmers' inputs of chemicals and water, yielding healthier crops and increasing environmental sustainability.  Deployment is simple and cost-effective as the trait is built into the seed, and farmers don’t have to be physically in the field to perform at-scale analysis of plant needs, including water and chemical applications.

The potential of this technology is revolutionary on a global scale.  Currently, farmers worldwide lose 20% of yields to pathogens ($800B) in spite of over application of chemicals that wastes 30% or $250B annually, worldwide.  The total pain point can be calculated at over $1T which is bad economically but also represents a huge environmental cost from over applied chemicals in our air, soil and water, and lost food to a growing population. 

These problems are only getting more real and Bee Partners is committed to supporting Founders operating on the Frontier Curve of Innovation.  

Bee Partners focuses on frontier technologies that can have this type of global impact.  Our investment construct centers around what we describe as a “Vector” -- repeatable technology patterns that startups are able to harvest and defend. Our three Vectors, or areas of focus for investment, are Human-to-Machine Interaction (HCI), Machine-to-Machine Learning (M2ML) and Biological Machines. 

Biological Machines are defined as “the convergence of biology and data to empower computational results to benefit humanity and the environment,” and this is squarely where InnerPlant falls. 

And so today, Bee Partners is honored to stand beside Shely and the full InnerPlant team as they announce this new relationship and a $12M Series-A round with John Deere, one of the most renowned agricultural and heavy machinery companies of all time.  Not only will Deere be making a substantial financial investment into InnerPlant, they will join the board of directors and help guide the shared vision of plant-by-plant management as a way to improve efficiency and boost both yields and sustainability.  This is a transformational moment for Shely, her team, and the company.   

The road thus far was certainly not easy, nor will be the road ahead given her the audacious goal of not selling out and dethroning the old guards.  Headwinds abound from every direction.  Financing is hard, distribution is hard, and the time required in biology does not always line up with investor expectations.  And as we all know in startups, the road ahead may be even harder.  So a heartfelt congratulations to her and the entire team at InnerPlant.  We are honored to be your partner. 

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