Sentera, a maker of farm-focused drones and other digital agriculture technology, on Wednesday completed a $14 million Series A fundraising round. The round was led by a mix of food, biosciences and agriculture investment firms from around the Midwest and East Coast.
These key investors include Chicago-based S2G Ventures, New York-based Continental Grain Company, and Washington, D.C.-based Middleland Capital.
The capital will allow Minneapolis-based Sentera to continue to accelerate commercialization and growth of its revenue and customer base, which company CEO Eric Taipale said has already begun thanks to increased customer traction for its real-time digital analytics, sensors, and data platform.
“We've demonstrated how real-time sensing and analytics can improve economic outcomes and support sustainability initiatives,” said Taipale, in a statement. “This investment allows us to ramp so we can take these digital products to scale more quickly, alongside the growers, advisors, and enterprise partners who've helped us to develop and refine our products."
Sentera sensors and AI technology are intended to help rapidly detect nutrition, disease and plant status issues, as applied to crops ranging from corn, to soybeans, vegetable, fruit, and nuts. Sentera drones can analyze the crops from the field’s edge, and produce a real-time report of what water, fertilizer, weed control or other inputs are needed and where.
Sentera’s products – which benefit growers, agronomists, operators and other industry players – feature computer algorithms, mobile, sensor, and cloud components. The components can be integrated with most data management platforms, including John Deere Operations Center and Climate FieldView.
Sanjeev Krishnan, managing director at S2G Ventures, said the firm was attracted to Sentera because they believe the company is in line with S2G’s own mission of helping build a food system designed with the present and future in mind.
"Sentera's products have had very positive user feedback. The company can demonstrate that they improve customer profitability and that their technologies support new practices that drive greater efficiency while reducing environmental impact," said Krishnan, in prepared remarks. “We are incredibly excited about Sentera's people, their core technology, and their commercial success.”
Sentera has been on the rise since it was launched in 2014, picking up FAA approval for its commercial drones, more than doubling staff overall from 12 to 28, and doubling revenue every year since 2015.
Amid its varied internal work in the agricultural space, the company has teamed up with the University of Minnesota to bring to market a university-developed technology that helps growers more precisely apply nitrogen fertilizer to corn, thereby minimizing over-application.
“We found a niche to go after,” Tapiale told TCB earlier this year, speaking about the business overall. “Our goal is to get to a point where growers can manage their crops on a plant-by-plant basis and generate data points as rapidly and efficiently as possible.”
To date, Sentera has more than 1,000 North American reseller locations, plus more partners around the world, and products are used in more than 50 countries, including within 100 research universities worldwide.