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InnerPlant Grows Millions With New John Deere-Support For Sustainable Farming • Technology Flow

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By 2050 the world will face food shortages as its population grows, so anything to make it easier for farmers to grow food will go a long way.

InnerPlant founder and CEO Shelly Aronov is trying to do just that with her startup that uses plant physiology to make agriculture more efficient and sustainable. Or more simply, using sensing and satellite technologies so plants “talk” to their growers.

Shelly Aronov and Rod Kumimoto started the Davis, Calif.-based company in 2018 and have spent the past four years in R&D mode developing genetically engineered crops that, for example, contain pests when they’re thirsty. Attack or need nitrogen so farmers can act quickly.

And by knowing all of this before it becomes a crisis, InnerPlant can help farmers reduce the amount of chemical pesticides they need or reduce the number of crops that are susceptible to pathogens like fungi.

The company raised $5.65 million in a seed round in 2021 led by MS&AD Ventures and is now back with $16 million in Series A funding. This time, Deere & Co. led the round and was joined by MS&AD Ventures, Bee Partners and UpWest.

The new investment brings InnerPlant to $22 million in total funding to date as it prepares to begin its first soybean production in 2024. Additionally, the company will begin launching satellites to talk to its sensors in 2023.

“We now have a really efficient process for developing soybean traits, and we’re now working on the first commercial product, which is fungal detection of soybean sensors,” Aronov told Technology Flow. “We should have it in field trials next year, and then do a soft launch with members of our inner circle.”

InnerPlant Inner Circle has 75 farmers working on 400,000 acres. These are a group of farmers who paid $500 early in the company’s lifecycle to get access to the products first.

Since the seed round, the company has grown to 18 employees. Last October, InnerPlant hired Randy Schultz as head of R&D. For more than 15 years, he previously held similar roles at Arcadia Biosciences, Inari and Monsanto.

The company also moved into a larger lab earlier this year and “finally has space to expand capital,” Aronov said. Now the company is hiring more people in R&D, data and engineering, business development, customer success and marketing.

Meanwhile, Deere & Co. Agriculture is no stranger to innovation. Earlier this year, John Deere announced its self-driving tractors and its See & Spray targeted technology.

Deere & Co. Hartsock, more than director of corn and soybean production systems for , told Technology Flow that investing in InnerPlant fits with his company’s mission to help farmers get better at preparing their land and producing better crops through technology like precision application.

“What the plant needs, when it needs it, in many cases at the individual plant level, is to be able to give the direction our strategy is taking us,” he added. “Sheely and our teams quickly discovered that our visions were very much aligned. Our investment commitment to be part of understanding how such a solution can drive more efficiency in crop production. Being willing to eliminate waste from the system ultimately provides a more profitable, better outcome for the farmer.

Edited at 10:02 am CST: The company corrected the data it provided, including the number of inner circle farmers at 400,000 acres and the removal of Tau Ventures as an investor.

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