Dumbo indoor agriculture startup Agrilyst closed on $1.5 million in venture funding Wednesday in a round led by a St. Louis-based VC, iSelect Fund, which focuses on agtech and biotechnology startups.
The round also included investment from three Chinese VCs: Argonautic Labs, Horizons Labs and Onlan Capital Fund. With the money and partnerships, Agrilyst’s founder and CEO Allison Kopf, said the company will look to expand into Chinese markets.
“The thing I think [the VCs] are most excited about is that this is a fast growing industry, indoor farming,” Kopf said by phone Thursday. “Data is kind of like pickaxes in a gold rush.”
With the growth in indoor farming, farmers have the capability to fine tune nearly every part of the process for maximal efficiency, from the amount of light on the plants to the color of the light, to the temperature, to the pH levels of the water. Agrilyst’s product allows them to keep track of all their settings and look at the data. It also allows them to digitally log increasingly complex compliance data, and track and trace data, all of which used to be kept by hand. It’s a little bit like TurboTax for farming.
Kopf says she sees two trends in the industry. One is that the costs of the tools are falling. LED lights are becoming cheaper and so are automation systems, Kopf said. The other is that, as startups like hers and others grow, there will be much more information for farmers to draw from, which will lower the barrier to entry for new farmers who lack experience.
“My bet would be the information gets commoditized,” Kopf said. “Most of this data had lived in your head. This is the problem we’re trying to solve, how do you pull all that data together in a way that’s easy to understand? Even a small backyard farmer could have access to a network of data that could be really valuable.”
Agrilyst has already done some hiring in recent months, including Mikhail Hutton as VP of customer success and Jon Dayton as CTO. The company now stands at 13 employees, many on Jay Street in Dumbo, and some remote.