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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Indigo Ag Raises $250M, Launches Innovative Grain Marketing Platform

Indigo Ag continues to break funding records, announcing the close of a $250 million Series E backed by both new and existing investor including Baillie Gifford, Investment Corporation of Dubai, the Alaska Permanent Fund, and the company’s founder Flagship Pioneering. This round now brings total funding for the company to $650 million.

This round follows nearly yearly record-breaking funding for Indigo after the company announced a $100 million Series C in July of 2016, led by Alaska Permanent Fund, and a Series D in December of last year that ended up totaling $203 million.

Indigo, which was originally created within Flagship’s in-house incubator VentureLabs, is working to answer the need of feeding a booming world population by 2050 through microbial research.

Over time, agricultural methods including the use of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers have increased agricultural output, but yields have plateaued in recent years, with average annual yield increases of just over one percent. In addition, these methods have disrupted plants’ beneficial microorganisms, or microbiome, in the same way that science has learned that antibiotics can disrupt a human’s gut microbiome.

In the face of environmental, disease, and pest stress, Indigo uses algorithms and machine learning to develop microbial products that increase crop yields by between 10 and 15 percent. Using this cutting-edge technology, Indigo identifies beneficial microbes that naturally exist within plants, then isolates and applies these microbes to crop seeds resulting in greater resilience in the face of a range of stressors, resulting in improved grower profitability, environmental sustainability, and consumer health.

“We don’t have to synthesize new stuff. We just have to find the things in nature that exist to do the same things,” Indigo’s CEO and founder David Perry told Crunchbase. “Once people grasp that, their entire idea on how we should farm generally changes.”

Indigo Market

In conjunction with this round, Indigo also has announced the launch of Indigo Marketplace - a digital platform designed to connect farmers directly to buyers, allowing them to transact for commodity crops at no cost. Buyers are also able to source grain with specific factors in mind, such as protein content, variety, milling quality, organic, non-GMO, and rain-fed, and in turn, farmers will be able to price their grain based on its identifying factors of their crop and how it was produced. Furthermore, Indigo facilitates grain quality testing, transportation, and payment through the platform.

Indigo Marketplace supports long-lead bids, future delivery, and basis contracts, and as a grain dealer in the 40 states in which it currently operates, Indigo expects to secure licenses in the balance within the coming months.

“Directly connecting growers and buyers is a critical step towards a food system that is responsive to the voices of consumers,” said Perry. “As long as farmers are producing a commodity, they have little economic incentive to produce crops of higher quality or produce them more sustainably. Indigo’s Marketplace enables buyers who want differentiated grain to buy it directly from the growers who produce it and reduces the supply chain costs for the whole industry.”

Through this digital process, both farmers and buyers can increase efficiency, reduce costs, and access larger markets. And in the first three and a half months in operation, Indigo Marketplace has engaged thousands of growers and buyers who have entered more than $6 million in grain inventory and more than 4,000 bids representing $2 billion in demand.

“Marketplace allows me more options to market my grain,” said Kansas grain grower Keven Hiebert. “The ultimate goal is to get the best price, and Marketplace cuts out the middleman and gets my grain directly to a buyer who is seeking a premium, identity-preserved crop… It’s been very simple so far; I signed up and someone reached out to me within 24 hours about a great bid. The wheat bid that I accepted was $0.60 over the local price.”

Indigo plans to use the capital from this latest round to fund the expansion of its teams in Memphis and its headquarters in Boston, where there are currently 100 open positions in the company’s R&D, marketing, data science, and other units. The company also has offices in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, Sydney, Australia, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and São Paulo, Brazil.

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