IPO Corner: The Farm Team Of Tomorrow

It’s hot… everywhere. Over the last few weeks, heat records across the United States have been smashed, some by up to six degrees. According to experts, a “heat dome” has settled over the Southwest and Central United States. Some are faring worse than others… like in Texas, where temperatures are already reaching 113 degrees.

And this isn’t isolated to parts of the U.S… as of the end of June, heat waves have broken record high temperatures across the world. Tokyo experienced its hottest temperature on record, same for London, Rome, Madrid… there’s no end in sight. This heat has experts alarmed, not just about the immediate effects it’s having on humans, but about what this means for agriculture and the future of food.

Across the globe, crop yields and livestock are suffering… crops, such as watermelon and cantaloupe, are experiencing pollination viability issues. If temperatures persist as they are, corn will be the next victim. Farmers are concerned that the heat is causing an increase in insufficient kernel development.

The cold, hard fact is… these conditions now represent a hurdle in the road for our species. This is our new reality, and we must work diligently to face it… must push forward toward workable solutions to carry us through. We must ask the hard questions. What will farming look like in the future? Especially on an ever hotter, more populated planet? Now that traditional weather patterns aren’t holding true, what’s the future of farming?

With 8 billion hungry mouths to feed, the agriculture market has its work cut out for it… globally, the market sat at over $11 billion as of last year and is expected to reach more than $18 billion in 2026. With the human population expected to boom to 10 billion by 2050, there will be no reversal to these trends. Companies in the agriculture space are going to have to run like the wind to innovate, so let’s meet some of the viable options in the pipeline for feeding humanity.

New Ways Of Farming

The image of a huge tractor whirling across a lush, overflowing field of grain is almost a universal language. The beauty of this mechanical beast precisely culling the golden tips of wheat, creating perfect rows… everything about it implies bounty. But what if it were time for a new universal image of farming? A new way of thinking about doing a very old process… something called vertical farming.

Vertical farming is exactly what it sounds like, farming vertically instead of horizontally… it makes sense if you think about it. When you can’t spread out, why not spread up? Vertical farming works not just by farming straight up, it also plays with the idea of farming without soil… and we think it’s brilliant. Two prominent vertical farming techniques are aeroponics and hydroponics. With aeroponics, the plant’s roots hang in the air and are fed nutrients through misting. With hydroponics, the plant is grown in water rather than soil.

But let’s take our futuristic fantasies one step farther… what if we didn’t have to utilize our finite land resources for farming? Currently, global land used for agriculture sits at 5 billion hectares, or 38% of all land on earth. Think about that, imagine almost 40% more land on earth suddenly opens up for human use other than farming… what could make this a reality? Space farming.

NASA is working on figuring out how we can farm in space. At first, they were just looking to end vitamin deficiencies in astronauts… but it ballooned into something else. They have their smartest people thinking of ways to work around the problem of growing fruits and vegetables without sunlight, gravity, or the safe embrace of mother earth. If they get it right, it could shift the entire human race into a new possible future. We’ll spare you the nitty-gritty, but just know… there are currently small space farms existing above your head.

Deals To Watch

The agricultural space is a playground right now for any willing to think ahead, and the companies on our radar this week are both places where leaders have their ears to the ground and their noses to the grind. We’re looking at Farmers Business Network and African Agriculture.

Farmers Business Network (FBN) is a California-based, online farmer-to-farmer network offering crop marketing services, data insights, and input procurement services. The company, founded in 2014, provides farmers access to information that improves the quality of their crops and helps them fix fair prices. The company has been valued at about $4 billion and is looking to double that and grow their network of 33,000 farmers even larger across Canada, Australia, and the United States.

Backers of the company include ADM Ventures, BlackRock, and Fidelity Management & Research Company. Currently, they are working to build a new platform that will focus on crop protection and seed breeding, which is a smart move given the troubles seeds are facing from heat. FBN has a strong history and is one of only a handful of farmtech startups that has been able to raise more than $110 million in a single round of funding. An IPO hasn’t been officially announced, but company activities (plus the hushed whispers of insider sources) lead us to believe it isn’t far off.

African Agriculture is an alfalfa producer operating in Senegal, based in the United States. The company has filed with the SEC to raise up to $40 million via an IPO. Founded in 2017, the company produces alfalfa for nutrient-dense cattle feed and nutrition, and its primary businesses include carbon offset production, commercial farming, and fishery logistics and management.

The company is ambitious, with big plans… they ran the numbers, and the growth of the alfalfa space will reach $35.2 billion by 2028. And demand for protein will only continue to grow with our population. They have a vision: deliver protein to the world through well-fed cattle, the responsible treatment of the environment, and the deployment of funds toward carbon offsets. A firm date for the IPO has not yet been set.

Could it be that, in a few years, you will be able to walk outside, gaze up into the sky, and catch glimmers of distant space farms above your head? Or a road trip to the beach will have you passing row upon row of vertical corn? Maybe… either way, we hope that one of these companies will be the little engine that could, blow us away, and land on our Buy List. We’ll be rooting for them and bringing you the latest need-to-know information in the agricultural space.