ADM Buys Stake in Startup Farmers Business Network

Archer Daniels Midland Co. invested in Farmers Business Network and announced a partnership with the agricultural technology firm aimed at making it easier to track the carbon footprint of crops from the planting stage.

This latest fundraising round valued Farmers Business Network at $3.9 billion, a spokesperson for the company said. ADM said it made an equity investment through its venture-capital arm, but declined to disclose the size.

Fidelity Investments Inc. is the lead investor in this round. Others include LK Advisers Ltd, Colle Capital Partners, Walleye Capital LLC  and Tudor Investment Corp. Investors from previous rounds, including BlackRock Inc., DBL Partners and Temasek Capital Management Pte Ltd., participated in the latest fundraising.

For ADM, the investment provides access to FBN’s cloud-based data software, which tracks spatial data from farm machinery and other data provided by farmers to create what FBN head executive Amol Deshpande said is an “auditable and credible picture” of the carbon footprint of crops planted by farmers.

“It opens up the opportunity to represent our products in a differentiated manner,” said Greg Morris, president of ADM’s Ag Service and Oilseeds business.

ADM says gaining ground-floor access to FBN’s software will improve the company’s ability to track the carbon footprint of crops grown by farmers that sell their grains to ADM. This combined with emissions data from ADM’s own processing would give the company’s customers a better idea of the total environmental impact for their grains. This will help farmers and others account for the carbon footprint of their production.

“Traditional business is optimized for cost and capital — businesses of the future need to optimize cost, capital and carbon,” Mr. Morris said.

Across industries, large companies interested in getting better data to track their carbon footprint are reaching out to tech firms to provide that data. In September, Delta Air Lines Inc. and Chevron Corp. announced a partnership with Alphabet Inc.’s Google to build a data-and-analytics platform to examine emissions data from the sustainable fuels being produced by Chevron and the footprint of fuels being burned in Delta flights.

Farmers Business Network has over 30,000 farmers overseeing more than 80 million acres using its platform, according to the company website. The partners hope that ADM’s backing will drive more farmers to it, which in turn will provide ADM with more data that it can use to sell its crops.

FBN’s partnership with ADM comes as the startup’s direct-marketing business— which sells seeds, pesticides, and fertilizer to farmers–faces pushback from traditional ag retailers.

“We’re viewed differently on the input side,” said Mr. Deshpande, explaining that the company’s  relationship with customers is different on data compared with its direct-marketing efforts. “That’s part of the evolution of a technology disruptor.”

FBN was founded in 2014, and is based in San Carlos, Calif., with a field office in Sioux Falls, S.D. The company has had 10 rounds of investment since its inception, according to Factset.

Write to Kirk Maltais at

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