Ag crowdfunding platform launches first deal

Reuters — Crowdfunding has found the farm.

AgFunder, an online platform for agriculture-related companies to seek capital through a form of crowd-sourced fundraising, said Wednesday it was launching its first campaign by focusing on a California agricultural data company.

Through the online platform, Fresno, California-based OnFarm is looking to raise $400,000 in capital to grow a farm data software service, AgFunder said (all figures US$).

The offering is the first to go live on New York City-based AgFunder, which started up late last year and is offering both debt financing and equity offerings for individual and institutional investors to play in the ag space, according to Rob Leclerc, AgFunder co-founder and CEO.

The crowd-sourcing strategy got a boost from recent federal legislation that eases securities regulations to encourage funding of small businesses.

Leclerc said AgFunder has $1 billion in more than 70 different deals in the pipeline to match with investors who want to gain equity in agricultural-related companies.

“It’s an interesting challenge,” he said.

Most of the deals, like OnFarm, are U.S.-based, but the online site will also be offering up investments in Australia, Canada and South America, said Leclerc, a former partner at SeedRock Capital Group, a venture capital firm focused on natural resources and agriculture.

Coming listings include a software company that uses high-resolution satellite imagery to analyze crop growth patterns to tailor water and fertilizer use, and a company that has developed a natural barrier system for greenhouse pest control.

Institutional and individual investors have increasingly been putting money into agriculture amid forecasts for a steep rise in global population and higher demand for food.

And farmers and other agricultural players have been finding they can raise money for expansion and other needs through a variety of crowd funding platforms.

— Carey Gillam is a Reuters correspondent covering U.S. agriculture and agribusiness from St. Louis.

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