Irish agricultural technology firm CropSafe has raised $3 million (€2.8 million) in a seed funding round and opened its US headquarters as the company targets the lucrative US market.
The company will use the money to expand its software engineering, product management and design teams.
The funding round was led by Elefund, with participation from Foundation Capital, Global Founders Capital, V1.VC and Great Oaks Capital. A number of angel investors also contributed to the round, including Cory Levy, Josh Browder and the former head of strategy at Microsoft, Charlie Songhurst.
CropSafe has developed technology to help farmers monitor the condition, and health of their farm and the weather. It uses satellite imagery and machine learning to help farmers and landowners spot areas that may need attention quickly. The information is relayed through a real-time dashboard on a mobile app, giving farmers the option to act quickly to deal with diseased crops.
The first version of the technology was built by co-founders John McElhone and Michael McLaughlin when they were still in school, using their own funds.
“We turned down a lot of investment over the past year or so, because we didn’t need anything at all,” said Mr McElhone. So “when we wanted to pull something together, the majority of it was covered in, I’d say, maybe four or five days.”
The company is now expanding from its Santa Monica headquarters in California, with plans to add more staff both there and in Ireland.
“The US is the best market right now for the product,” Mr McElhone said. “CropSafe started rolling out in the UK and Ireland, we’ve kind of figured out that part of the world. So the US is next. Its quite a large jump, but we’re all for it.”
The $3 million in funding will help the company build its product and figure out where it fits, with the possibility of a further funding round once that is concluded to scale it as quickly as possible.
“Right now we’re a small team. We’re keeping the team small purposely, so we can figure out what works really, really well,” he said.
The US office will also help the company to hire the appropriately skilled staff, with CropSafe currently seeking engineering staff with geospatial imagery and data expertise. The concentration of aerospace companies in the LA region makes it an easier proposition, Mr McElhone said, with UCLA and USC offering good college programmes in this area.
"John and Michael make an incredible set of young founders in the agtech space," said Nathan Rodland, general partner at Elefund, which led the funding round for CropSafe.
“Their families have been in farming for generations, and they care deeply about easing the burden on today’s farmers by helping them harness the power of real-time data in simple, actionable ways through the CropSafe operating system.”