Indigo raises $250M, launches marketplace to help farmers get paid for quality grain

Indigo, the startup bringing algorithms and machine learning to the agricultural industry, has raised a $250 million Series E, bringing its total raised to $650 million. The funding values the company at $3.5 billion, according to a source familiar with the deal. That’s a steep increase from its previously reported value: $1.4 billion with a […]

Indigo, the startup bringing algorithms and machine learning to the agricultural industry, has raised a $250 million Series E, bringing its total raised to $650 million.

The funding values the company at $3.5 billion, according to a source familiar with the deal. That’s a steep increase from its previously reported value: $1.4 billion with a $156 million Series D last September. Existing investors Baillie Gifford, the Alaska Permanent Fund, the Investment Corporation of Dubai and Flagship Pioneering participated in the round. New investors, who Indigo declined to name, also participated.

Indigo initially launched in 2014 to help farmers improve the health and productivity of their crops with microbial products that protect against the environment, disease and pest stress. Now, the company is expanding its suite of digital tools with the launch of Indigo Marketplace, which is essentially eBay for farmers.

Indigo CEO David Perry, who grew up on a farm in Arkansas, told TechCrunch Indigo expects to do $500 million in bookings this year thanks to the early growth of the new product. That’s more than 8x growth YoY.

Indigo first began rolling out the online grain marketplace to its network of farmers in June and has since seen more than $6 billion worth of grain put up for sale by farmers. Buyers have placed more than 4,000 bids worth $2 billion.

Perry, a serial entrepreneur — he co-founded Better Therapeutics and Anacor Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired for $5.2 billion by Pfizer — says Indigo’s marketplace has had the most rapid adoption of any product launch he’s been associated with in his career.

“It’s part of a bigger plan,” he said. “We knew microbiology was a cornerstone to changing agriculture but it couldn’t do it by itself.”

Using Indigo Marketplace, buyers can purchase grain directly from farmers. They can filter by protein content, milling quality or by production practices, i.e. whether it’s organic or not. Growers are paid based on the quality of their crop, which is determined by a sample sent to a third-party lab for analysis.

Indigo manages the testing, the transportation of the crop and the payment through its new platform. 

Venture capital investment in agtech has been steadily growing in the last decade with more and more early-stage startups emerging to compete with the Big 6 of agriculture: Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont, Dow, Syngenta and BASF.

The industry, according to agtech firm Finistere Ventures, has transitioned “from a niche, opportunistic clade of the venture capital investment class, to a legitimate asset class attracting focused and generalist funds.”

As for Indigo, it has been and continues to be the most valuable private agtech startup.

A Tesla investor says he was recently questioned by U.S. regulators about that infamous “funding secured” tweet

Last week, on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, regulator Jina Choi, who heads the SEC’s wide-reaching San Francisco unit, declined to confirm or deny that the SEC is investigating Tesla CEO Elon Musk for possible fraud. Said Choi, “I can’t tell you about any particular investigation in our office. And I can’t confirm or deny the […]

Last week, on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, regulator Jina Choi, who heads the SEC’s wide-reaching San Francisco unit, declined to confirm or deny that the SEC is investigating Tesla CEO Elon Musk for possible fraud.

Said Choi, “I can’t tell you about any particular investigation in our office. And I can’t confirm or deny the existence of investigations that are in our office. I can say that we are very diligent about covering the issuers in our region and some of the more high-profile issuers in our region. We try to stay on top of that, but that’s about all I can say.”

Now, investor James Anderson of the global asset manager Baillie Gifford tells Reuters that, as a shareholder, he was recently questioned by U.S. securities regulators about Musk’s famous  — and possibly fateful  —  early August tweet that he was thinking of taking Tesla private and that he had “funding secured.”

Said Anderson to Reuters, “I don’t know what they’ll do with [Musk], but there’s no implication that we’ve done anything wrong . . . I think quite naturally they wanted to know whether major shareholders had any lead indication or knowledge of the tweet about ‘funding secured.’”

Because it isn’t talking, it’s impossible to know how seriously the SEC is looking into the chain of events that led to the tweet or what followed. As industry watchers likely know, days after making his surprising announcement, Musk elaborated on why he made it, writing in a post that he’d left a late July meeting with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund that gave him the impression that a deal to take Tesla private could close.

tick-tock account by the WSJ of what happened behind the scenes during this period —  it was published shortly after Musk abandoned his take-private idea – said officials in the kingdom were “rankled” by the suggestion that the Saudis, who have quietly acquired up to 5 percent of the company’s shares this year,  had made any kind of formal proposal.

Bruised feelings aside, Musk, it’s now plain, may be dealing with regulatory fall-out, too. And interestingly, much of what happens next may center not just on interviews with shareholders and Musk’s other communications, but on plain-old psychology.

On stage, we asked Choi if, typically, false statements are enough to prove fraud or whether there needs to be an accompanying scheme. “When you talk about fraud,” she’d answered, “you’re talking about a state of mind, you’re talking about mens rea. We call it scienter. You have to do something with intentionality. The idea of just making a misstatement doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of fraud. I think that’s what makes our investigations so challenging. I think the idea of trying to understand what’s in people’s heads can be very difficult.”

Misstatements can “be the first step to fraud,” Choi had added. “But generally, when we talk about fraud the F word, I think we are talking about a state of mind that’s a little bit higher than that.”

A Tesla investor says he was recently questioned by U.S. regulators about that infamous “funding secured” tweet

Last week, on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, regulator Jina Choi, who heads the SEC’s wide-reaching San Francisco unit, declined to confirm or deny that the SEC is investigating Tesla CEO Elon Musk for possible fraud. Said Choi, “I can’t tell you about any particular investigation in our office. And I can’t confirm or deny the […]

Last week, on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, regulator Jina Choi, who heads the SEC’s wide-reaching San Francisco unit, declined to confirm or deny that the SEC is investigating Tesla CEO Elon Musk for possible fraud.

Said Choi, “I can’t tell you about any particular investigation in our office. And I can’t confirm or deny the existence of investigations that are in our office. I can say that we are very diligent about covering the issuers in our region and some of the more high-profile issuers in our region. We try to stay on top of that, but that’s about all I can say.”

Now, investor James Anderson of the global asset manager Baillie Gifford tells Reuters that, as a shareholder, he was recently questioned by U.S. securities regulators about Musk’s famous  — and possibly fateful  —  early August tweet that he was thinking of taking Tesla private and that he had “funding secured.”

Said Anderson to Reuters, “I don’t know what they’ll do with [Musk], but there’s no implication that we’ve done anything wrong . . . I think quite naturally they wanted to know whether major shareholders had any lead indication or knowledge of the tweet about ‘funding secured.’”

Because it isn’t talking, it’s impossible to know how seriously the SEC is looking into the chain of events that led to the tweet or what followed. As industry watchers likely know, days after making his surprising announcement, Musk elaborated on why he made it, writing in a post that he’d left a late July meeting with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund that gave him the impression that a deal to take Tesla private could close.

tick-tock account by the WSJ of what happened behind the scenes during this period —  it was published shortly after Musk abandoned his take-private idea – said officials in the kingdom were “rankled” by the suggestion that the Saudis, who have quietly acquired up to 5 percent of the company’s shares this year,  had made any kind of formal proposal.

Bruised feelings aside, Musk, it’s now plain, may be dealing with regulatory fall-out, too. And interestingly, much of what happens next may center not just on interviews with shareholders and Musk’s other communications, but on plain-old psychology.

On stage, we asked Choi if, typically, false statements are enough to prove fraud or whether there needs to be an accompanying scheme. “When you talk about fraud,” she’d answered, “you’re talking about a state of mind, you’re talking about mens rea. We call it scienter. You have to do something with intentionality. The idea of just making a misstatement doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of fraud. I think that’s what makes our investigations so challenging. I think the idea of trying to understand what’s in people’s heads can be very difficult.”

Misstatements can “be the first step to fraud,” Choi had added. “But generally, when we talk about fraud the F word, I think we are talking about a state of mind that’s a little bit higher than that.”