It’s coming into harvest time, and what a harvest Waterloo Region agtech startup BinSentry has achieved: a financing round of US$7.7 million.
Lewis & Clark AgriFood, a St. Louis, Mo.-based food and agriculture focused investment firm, on Thursday announced that it had closed the investment round with BinSentry, which uses IoT-connected sensors to assess feed requirements for farmers.
For Randall Schwartzentruber, BinSentry co-founder and CEO, the investment is an affirmation of an insight he had four years ago while working for a smart technology installation firm in Waterloo.
He’d heard about a local feed mill that was looking for a way to remotely gauge feed levels on farm operations. Growing up in New Hamburg, and with his grandfather’s dairy farm in nearby Tavistock, he was familiar with the many tasks facing farmers every day – and monitoring feed levels, typically by banging on the side of tall metal feed bins with a rubber mallet, sometimes was forgotten, leading to hurried calls to feed mills for sometimes inefficient resupply missions.
By the end of 2017, he’d founded a company, based on a solar-powered, LiDAR-equipped IoT sensor that could see through the clutter of feed-bin dust or errant piles of grain to give real-time data on feed inventory, allowing mill operators to deliver feed when it’s needed, and reduce the costs associated with needless or unproductive deliveries.
With some feed mills having to transport feed up to 800 kilometres (1,600-km round-trip) to any one of the tens of thousands of feed bins that hold some 30 million tonnes of animal feed in Canada, transportation efficiencies are vital.
By 2019, BinSentry had 1,000 sensors installed, with its success earning it a Forbes Innovation Icon Award. Today, the company has 30 feed production clients in Canada and the United States, with more than 3,000 sensors deployed in the field.
This successful rollout attracted Lewis & Clark AgriFood, and the investment opportunity attracted supporting investors: BDC Capital’s Industrial Innovation Venture Fund and existing investors Garage Capital and Chilligo Investments.
In a news release, David Taiclet, Managing Director and General Partner of Lewis & Clark AgriFood, said, “Feed bin monitoring is currently antiquated with significant opportunity to improve efficiency. Our investment team, led by Dr. Larry Page and Suhas Narayanaswamy, has studied this sector in detail and BinSentry’s technology was a clear market leader. We’re very pleased to invest in BinSentry to help expand their innovative technology within the animal production industry.”
In the same news release, Joe Regan, Managing Partner, Industrial Innovation Venture Fund, BDC Capital, said, “Thanks to its inventive solution, BinSentry is well positioned to disrupt feed inventory management. In partnership with Lewis & Clark, we will be committed to support the global expansion of this Canadian ag-tech company.” Jonathan Goodkey, Principal with the Industrial Innovation Venture Fund, will be joining BinSentry’s Board of Directors.
With this support and a pending partnership with a leading ag brand, BinSentry is poised to take its product to the global marketplace.
For those looking for work in agtech, Schwartzentruber says BinSentry is hiring. Four new staff have just been added to the 12-member team, and another 30 – engineers, marketing specialists, graphic design, product team, electronics engineers and sales associates – will be added over the next 12 months.
Thoroughly excited by the successful financing round, Schwartzentruber credits BinSentry’s success with its location.
“We consider this region to be one of the best areas we could have possibly started a business like this. We have quite literally the benefit of working with some of the nation’s leading feed mills that are all within 20 minutes’ drive of Kitchener-Waterloo. We are in the heart of Silicon Valley North, with all of these different assets available to help us grow our company and scale it up.
“I can say without a shadow of a doubt that part of the reason we have been successful is because of our proximity to other industry leaders and people who forged the path ahead of us and are willing to sit down and give us advice and insight into how best to start a business and scale it up as well.
“We have the best of both worlds here: the technical expertise of global companies like Google and Blackberry and all the people who have come out of those businesses and started companies, and just outside of the city, tons of feed mills who were instrumental in us developing this technology. It was with their collaboration and their help that we built this thing.
“We definitely find ourselves in a unique position here in Kitchener-Waterloo. This region is ripe for other agtech companies like ours to be founded, because we have the benefit of ag surrounding us – we’re in one of the richest farmland areas in Canada – and then we have Kitchener-Waterloo, which is just an incredible source of technical talent.”