Farmer’s Business Network Inc., operator of a B2B marketplace and an information portal designed to help farmers operate more efficiently and profitably, is pretty good at raising a prized commodity much in demand: cash.
FBN—which was founded in 2014 as a cooperative to help small, independent farmers compete in an agri-business market increasingly dominated by big companies—has raised more than $630 million in working capital. That includes an initial $190 million from Kleiner Perkins and such well-known investment firms as Acre Venture Partners, DBL Partners and Google Ventures.
Now Farmer’s Business Network has raised another round of $250 million from an investor group led by BlackRock Inc., with participation from other investors including Baron Capital Group, Balyasny Asset Management LP, Mandi Ventures, Lupa Systems, Ron Shaich, DBL Partners, Temasek, GV, Expanding Capital, Kleiner Perkins.
Ecommerce, marketing and financial services
FBN will use the new funding to grow the Farmers First FBN Direct crop-management services and the FBN Crop Marketing and Financial Services. FBN Direct operates a B2B ecommerce site that lets farmers research, compare prices and place online orders for such products as seed, fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. The ecommerce site lets customers view extensive product details and images, compare products with similar ingredients, and view prices paid by farmers across the country.
“We will double down on putting farmers first by further investing in technologies that lower costs, improve transparency and create local community development opportunities in rural areas,” says Farmer’s Business Network CEO Amol Deshpande.
Initially, the FBN Direct B2B ecommerce site, at FBN.com/direct/products, carried an inventory of about 200 products but has expanded to about 1,200. FBN, which built its database and analytics tools as cloud-based applications using cloud technology from Amazon Web Services, developed its ecommerce system internally.
Analytics and mobile apps
FBN.com also provides farmers with access to analytics data on such agricultural areas as seeds and crop prices, and lets then access the data on mobile apps. FBN Crop Marketing and Financial Services helps farmers with budgeting, pricing and related issues.
In recent months, Farmer’s Business Network, which says it has 12,000 members who farm more than 40 million acres across the U.S. and Canada, has been busy making acquisitions, going overseas and developing new products.
In January, FBN launched Hedge Command, a grain marketing system that uses data science and economic analysis to generate truly personalized pricing recommendations for members.
In July, Farmer’s Business Network expanded into Australia with the acquisition of Farmsave Holdings, which operates a B2B market place and provides data and other analytical services to Australian farmers. Terms of the deal weren’t released.
“We intend to work with our farmer customers globally to help bring more products and services to market that benefit their profitability-and-loss [statement], as well as the communities around them,” Deshpande says.
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