The National Science Foundation (NSF) is investing $15 million in smart agriculture technology startup Grow, which aims to help farmers in developing countries use data to identify the best farming practices and optimize production, according to a press release.
Grow, launched in March, is now available to farmers in Kenya and Uganda, and is also offering to help with the country’s agro-marketing efforts, the release said.
“The first generation of crop-tracking products, Grow’s software can be used in combination with the AgTech Platform for Agriculture to help identify, quantify and track the characteristics of crops to increase the yield, yield efficiency, nutrition and marketability of the crop,” the release read.
Grow is one of three companies to receive a $15-million seed grant from NSF, along with Monsanto and a research firm called M-Lab.
The funding for Grow comes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed increasing the number of USDA-certified agrochemical-testing labs to 50, up from 25.
The proposed increase in labs comes as a result of a USDA-backed pilot program that will require more testing facilities to be constructed, and also as a consequence of USDA’s proposed $30-million food safety spending plan.
Grow’s chief executive officer, Brian Wojtas, told Business Insider the company aims to provide farmers with “an efficient, high-value solution that is affordable and accessible to farmers” by using data from its system.
“We have built a robust, reliable, open-source software platform that is scalable, powerful, scalable and scalable to meet the demands of agricultural and food systems,” Wojtunas said.
Grow has built its software for agrochemicals to “analyze, map, and analyze data,” and it is currently being used by some of the world’s largest agri-food companies, including Nestlé, General Mills, and Monsanto.
The company also aims to partner with agro companies to develop agroeconomic tools for farmers, and has partnerships with other companies, such as the Canadian agricultural and technology company Agroforestry.
Grow also offers “a variety of agro technology products,” the USDA’s press release reads, including the Grow Micro-Agriculture Sensor, which is designed to detect different types of crops and also is currently in use in Uganda and Kenya.
The USDA said in April that it would spend $4.8 billion on agroecological tools by the end of 2021, up 9% from the previous year.
The program, which will be available for farmers to use for the first time this year, will help them “better understand their crops and help them develop new technologies to improve their crops,” according to the USDA.
AgTech is one area where government support has been particularly helpful to agrobusiness companies.
Last year, the USDA allocated $1.2 billion in funding for agtech research.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who has been critical of agtech companies like Grow and Monsanto, recently announced $200 million in grants to the research community, including $75 million for crop-trophic technology startups.
“In 2016 alone, the United States received over $30 billion in seed, technology, and seed procurement support for agribusiness,” Perdue said in a statement.
“With this $20 billion grant, the Department of Energy, USDA, USDA-CDA, and USDA-FED will use the funds to support agtech startups, including Grow, in partnership with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and other industry partners.
Agtech is poised to play a pivotal role in advancing agriculture in the 21st century, providing farmers with new ways to manage and use resources, and developing new tools to help them manage and improve their crop-management practices.”