5 Questions With Arable
Arable is providing farmers and others in the agricultural industry with better crop data
Arable is one of the many innovative deep tech companies in Alumni Ventures’ portfolio and reflects our ability to connect with disruptive startups solving some of the toughest and potentially most lucrative tech challenges.
Agtech has been a very active venture sector, as farmers and the agriculture industry search for sustainable crop solutions to address the impact of climate change. In Q1 2022, global agtech companies collected $3.3 billion across 222 deals — a 15.5% increase in value quarter over quarter.
Arable provides farmers with a hardware and software suite to efficiently collect crop data at scale. The platform leverages AI and machine learning to help farmers optimize when and how much to irrigate, fertilize, and use pesticides. We invested in Arable’s $20 million Series B in 2020 led by Prelude Ventures, as well as the company’s $40 million Series C in 2022 led by Galvanize Climate Solutions.
See below for an interview with CEO Jim Ethington to learn how Arable is empowering food producers with better analytics about their crops.
Jim EthingtonCEO of Arable
Prior to joining Arable, Jim spent 10 years at The Climate Corporation, where he was VP of Product and grew the company to 50 million paid acres and built a team from 10 to over 600 individuals. Previous to The Climate Corporation, Jim worked at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, where he led several high-profile engagements, including developing innovative financial analysis and fraud detection software products that became core drivers of revenue across PwC's lines of business. Jim has an A.B. in Computer Science and Economics from Duke University.
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What problem or opportunity is Arable addressing?
Farmers are facing a rapidly changing climate. We’re already using 70% of our fresh water for agriculture, and we’ve already cultivated most of our high producing land. If we’re going to be able to feed a growing population, that will require us to produce 50% more food in the coming two decades. Farmers are looking for sustainable solutions to meet that demand, but there hasn’t been a good way for them to collect reliable data about their crops and make informed decisions.
Arable is a smart field sensing and analytics company helping farmers and others in the agriculture industry use analytics to produce food more sustainably. We produced a sensing device that’s installed directly in the field and tracks temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind, and more. The resulting data helps farmers better manage their ratio of inputs and outputs. For example, they can adjust how much water and fertilizer they’re using based on what their crops actually need. We work with small farmers in Africa all the way up to some of the largest companies in the world, and there’s a universal goal of being more productive, efficient, and sustainable.
What inspires your work at Arable?
I’ve been working at the intersection of agriculture, data, and technology for the last 15 years. When I first started to really immerse myself in this industry, I traveled around the world to meet with farmers and saw the challenges they face firsthand. I think people have this picture in their head of what a farmer does, and they assume that they’re slow to adapt to new technology. That’s pretty far from reality. Every day, farmers are looking for ways to be more competitive in their market and protect their farm for future generations. If a new technology comes along that’s going to help them do that, they’re going to adopt it very quickly. It’s our job as technology companies to develop great products and help farmers use them to great effect.
What unique challenges does Arable face as a deep tech company?
We have to maintain a really high bar for quality and reliability. Our customers are busy maintaining complex operations, and they have a very low margin for error. We have to provide them with a product that works incredibly well and doesn’t create additional complexity and overhead. If our platform starts to be more of a problem than a solution, our customers are going to put it in the shed pretty quickly.
Another challenge is reaching customers economically. Agriculture is a huge industry, and it can be expensive to develop relationships with farmers one by one. That’s why Arable has been proactive and leaned in on partnerships. By collaborating with other companies, we can connect with customers more efficiently, while also providing them with a streamlined solution. We’re also working with large ag businesses who already know these customers but need the piece that we bring to the puzzle.
Why did you decide to partner with Alumni Ventures? What makes us stand out?
We’ve been highly appreciative of our partnership with Alumni Ventures. When we connect with VCs, we’re looking for a real partner that’s committed to helping us pursue our mission and can provide skills and connections that we don’t have on staff. With AV, we saw a very broad view of the technology landscape and unique access to a huge group of alumni networks. It’s been a really good community to be connected to on the hiring front, the customer front, and even the investor front. Some of these folks investing through AV have other networks in the broader capital allocation world have helped us build relationships in really valuable areas.
What is next on the horizon for your organization, and how can our community support you?
We’re expanding globally, which means hiring new folks to support us and pursuing new customers. Specifically, we’d appreciate connections to large food and ag companies and enterprises that are pursuing improvements to their productivity and sustainability. On the hiring front, we have a number of roles across various departments posted on our website.
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These videos feature members of portfolio companies in which certain Alumni Ventures Funds have invested and may contain factual or forward-looking statements of such members. Neither AV nor any of its affiliated companies represents, warrants, or guarantees the accuracy or the completeness of the information. You agree not to rely on the information contained herein for any investment, business, or financial purpose.