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Women-Led AgTech Startups Earn Industry Recognition, Funding

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Agricultural technology has been around since the first farmers crafted tools from wood and animal bones more than 12,000 years ago. Since then, much of it has focused on improving the process of planting and harvesting crops. Today, many advances aim to make agriculture more sustainable.

Two startups are on the leading edge of these trends. Agtools and FA Bio deal with very different technologies, but they both reflect the changing face of agriculture.

Photo Courtesy Agtools Inc 

Agtools, headquartered in Orange County, CA, is a global Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that gathers real-time government and institutional data of more than 500 specialty crops and commodities. Its algorithms can calculate more than 1 billion transactions per second, aiming to help farmers and commodity buyers understand how different factors affect their contracts and future emissions. 

FA Bio, based in England, develops technology to discover biological alternatives to agrochemicals. Its two main businesses — BioAg and BioLab — build strategic partnerships with companies to create sustainable bioproducts.

The startups launched within the last decade — FA Bio in 2015 and Agtools in 2017. Women also lead both companies.

Martha Montoya is the founder and CEO of Agtools. CEO Ángela de Manzanos Guinot and COO Kerry O’Donnelly Weaver co-founded FA Bio, formally called FungiAlert.

Another thing Agtools and FA Bio have in common is that in October 2022, they won The Radicle Challenge presented by Nutrien. The partnership supports agri-food technology platforms led by historically underrepresented communities in agriculture. 

Photo Courtesy Fa Bio

The Radicle Challenge was started by Radicle Growth, a San Diego-based venture capital firm that invests in innovative ag and food tech startups, and Nutrien, a Canadian fertilizer company. According to the Radicle Challenge website, the competition aims to “proactively seek out the best and brightest entrepreneurs” who either solve problems or disrupt prevailing business models in the agriculture and food industries.

The competition allows startups to pitch their companies and platforms to a panel of global agricultural leaders, with the best firms receiving money and access to Radicle’s ecosystem. As winners, Agtools and FA Bio will each receive $250,000 investments from Nutrien to continue their innovations. 

Photo Courtesy Radicle Ag & Food Tech VC Fund

“Receiving the investment and access to valuable industry expertise will help FA Bio scale up our discovery projects to discover sustainable alternatives to agrochemicals,” Guinot said.

A product that Guinot created, called SporSenZ, studies crop and microbe interactions to find biological alternatives to agricultural chemicals.

The technology is provided to partners in exchange for samples of active soil microbes. FA Bio then takes them and builds microbial libraries to analyze microbial activity and discover active ingredients. Those ingredients are licensed by FA Bio to commercial partners, producing biological fungicides and fertilizers.

The platform developed by Agtool’s Montoya uses algorithms and machine learning to monitor more than 75 variables that impact the ag-food supply chain, from soil to market. Agtool then provides real-time market data for more than 500 commodities to help farmers and buyers develop better planting and harvesting practices. The technology also aids stakeholders in forecasting more accurate finances and outcomes and lowers their risks and carbon emissions.

“Focusing on increasing yield and lowering costs is only a percentage of farming good practices,” Montoya said. “Knowing the global variables impacting their commodity is crucial for their longevity.”

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