Sowing the Seeds for Innovation in Farmland: Why We Invested in FarmlandFinder
Imagine buying or selling a house without access to a multiple listing service (MLS) database or online aggregator sites like Zillow. How would you find market information to support your decision? Seems like a daunting task. You might rely on trusted real estate brokers, but how would you be certain that they are working with a complete data set of all land that is available for sale or that they have the best network of buyers to generate competitive bids for your property? Would you be confident that you are buying or selling a house at the best price at the right time in the market?
Welcome to the opaque world of farmland transactions. Buying and selling farmland is terribly inefficient, and a majority of the $56 billion of land that transfers ownership every year is done entirely offline. Selling land takes an average of 90 days, and there’s a 20% chance the deal falls through. This process can be complicated, full of hassles and emotionally grinding.
What if there was a platform that reduces all of the friction baked into the archaic farmland transaction process? That’s the vision of FarmlandFinder. Raised on a fifth-generation farm, Steven Brockhus founded the company to bring transparency to farmland sales.
The FarmlandFinder platform provides landowners, brokers, farmland professionals and farmland investors access to one of the largest and up-to-date farmland database in the country and comprehensive digital tools to quickly identify and analyze farmland properties. Landowners can locate comparables and analyze recent transaction trends to best market their property. Farmland professionals can leverage the company’s proprietary database to see active listings and upcoming auctions, perform comparable analyses, and capture farmland data to underwrite loans. And FarmlandFinder delivers all of this information simple, instant, and online.
If that wasn’t enough to make us excited about the company’s potential, here are a few more reasons we’re thrilled to work with Steven and the FarmlandFinder team:
Capturing data and insights on farmland is labor intensive, fragmented, and infrequent.
Consider the USDA, which employs hundreds of workers to survey thousands of farms to make crop prediction forecasts that inform the market on supply, quality, and pricing of crops. Ag lenders employ hundreds of loan officers and underwriters to source and underwrite loans to farmers to finance their operations, purchase property, and more. And farmland real estate firms hire hundreds of brokers and appraisers to help facilitate the buying and selling of farmland on behalf of their customers.
The industry undertakes this huge feat because it’s tremendously valuable and necessary to a broad set of stakeholders. Farmers rely on market data to make planting, crop marketing, and equipment and land decisions. More accurate and real-time market insights can assist farmers in making better operating decisions and managing their risk. And ag lenders rely on accurate farmland operation data in order to assess risk and price financing solutions. Ag lenders that can more reliably assess risk, can expand their lending portfolios and offer more competitive financing products to farmers.
Food and agriculture companies rely on farmland production data to make trading decisions, establish prices for food, and manage supply risk. More accurate and real-time insights directly impact these companies’ bottom lines and the prices consumers pay at the grocery store. Institutional investors rely heavily on farmland production data to manage farmland asset portfolios and commodity trading strategies. Better and more timely insights can help these investors manage risk and achieve better financial returns on their invested capital, which includes pension and mutual funds. The impact and value of better farmland data is immense, from the lending terms offered to farmers, the profitability of family farms, consumer food prices, and the returns of our retirement savings.
Cultivian Sandbox sees tremendous opportunity to capture this data and generate better, faster, and more predictable insights. That’s why we invested in Santa-Fe based Descartes Labs, which is building a data refinery for satellite imagery using computer vision, machine learning, and cloud-based infrastructure to enable rapid analysis of the world in near real-time. Descartes Labs applied its technology first to agriculture, analyzing agricultural land across the globe remotely via satellites to predict crop yield better and at a fraction of the cost. Cargill partners with Descartes Labs to generate better crop yield predictions to develop better farmland production insights to inform product offerings and agriculture trading strategies.
On the operations level, we invested in Conservis, which offers a farm management system that aggregates, organizes, and analyzes disparate farm operations data on-the-ground in a single platform, eliminating written records. Conservis and Rabobank announced a partnership in 2018 that will allow farmers using Conservis software to generate and send lender-ready reports to their lenders. The goal of the partnership is to enable faster and more competitive lending for farmers.
And most recently we invested in FarmlandFinder to bring transparency to the farmland real estate market. Until FarmlandFinder, there was limited data on farmland listings, sales, or auctions, and no comprehensive software tools for land professionals to manage their asset portfolios. FarmlandFinder’s platform offers simple, easy-to-use market intelligence and data management tools to landowners, farmland professionals, ag lenders, and land investment firms. Land professionals can leverage these cloud-based digital tools to get the most up-to-date market insights and manage their data in user-friendly map-based interface.
In keeping with our philosophy of identifying innovative food and agtech companies led by exceptional entrepreneurs, we believe FarmlandFinder to be a natural fit. Steven Brockshus, founder and CEO, hails from a fifth-generation Iowa dairy farming family and has a unique perspective into the challenges of buying and selling farmland. Steven’s firsthand experience provides him with both the insight and capability to transform farmland real estate. We invested because we believe the farmland real estate marketplace is ripe for digitization and innovation, and we believe that the team at FarmlandFinder has a promising strategy to pioneer this revolution. Cultivian Sandbox is excited to partner with FarmlandFinder on this journey.
To learn more about FarmlandFinder, read the official press release on the fundraise.