FarmRaise aims to become a financial services giant, starting with agricultural concessions – Techdoxx

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 22, 2022
Updated 2022/01/22 at 8:36 AM

You have to start somewhere. So when Jayce Hafner and Sami Tellatin teamed up as Stanford MBA colleagues because of their shared belief that making American farms more efficient would be good for farmers, good for the country, and good business, they decided that the point starting point were donations.

For his part, Hafner grew up on a cattle ranch in Virginia and knew firsthand that applying for grants—even to improve his family’s farm’s sustainable agricultural practices—was a messy and time-consuming process. Meanwhile, Tellatin studied biological engineering as an undergraduate and spent three years at the USDA, researching the impacts of cover crops on ecosystems and the agricultural economy. She also knew that farmers could make better choices if subsidies were more available to them.

Log in FarmRaise, now a 12-person, two-year-old company based in San Diego, Calif., that has made considerable progress since the two joined forces with another co-founder, Albert Abedi, who they met through Pear VC’s accelerator program , the Palo Alto-based company.

According to Hafner, the company already has nearly 10,000 farms on the platform thanks to word of mouth, a dash of search engine magic and, most importantly, partnerships it has made with agricultural giants like Cargill and Corteva (split from DuPont in 2018) that have carbon emissions reduction targets to meet and have started directing farmers to FarmRaise for help with donations tied to low carbon agriculture.

FarmRaise’s platform – which requests granular information about the farm and then structures the data in a way that allows FarmRaise to quickly apply to a wide variety of grant programs on behalf of its customers – also has enough momentum to that investors are now in the mix. (The team just raised $7.2 million in seed funding led by Susa Ventures, which has joined Cendana Capital, Ulu Ventures, Pear, Better Tomorrow Ventures, Incite Ventures and Financial Ventures Studio, among others.)

Still, as with so many startups, Hafner says the grants — federal and private — are just the starting point for the sprawling financial services company that FarmRaise aims to become. Imagine, suggests Hafner, that once a farm has provided much of its data to the company, FarmRaise can help that farm secure loans, secure equipment at wholesale prices, reduce its operating expenses, and help with its banking and tax. Many of these services will be provided by third parties, she says. FarmRaise is not looking to reinvent whee. But there’s also no reason why farmers shouldn’t have a “full-stack” resource to turn to, she adds.

That’s the view, at least. For now, FarmRaise is focused on hiring more employees, raising more grants and ensuring that its customers are satisfied with the services it already provides and for which it charges a monthly subscription, in addition to 10% of the value of the grants it guarantees.

It is a difficult task as some exchanges have waiting times of six to 12 months.

On the other hand, says Hafner, this is forcing FarmRaise to develop innovative ways to get capital into farmers’ hands faster based on the data it’s collecting. “That’s what we’re excited about,” she says.

It’s also a big opportunity, apparently. Food and agriculture startups have been attracting record amounts of venture funding, and donations are also on the rise, as Hafner notes. More importantly, she says, USDA funding “is growing like crazy. The Trump administration distributed tens of billions of dollars in additional funding to support all types of farmers who were struggling with Covid-related supply chain disruptions, which was a huge opportunity in 2021 and 2020.”

Meanwhile, with Biden’s administration, she adds, “We’re seeing this big focus on increasing the size of the pie for conservation funding and likely doubling in the next few years.” It just makes sense, she suggests. “Not only [sustainable farming] increase farm profitability, but it also sequesters carbon and can help tackle climate change. They’re just the many, many, many benefits that come with that.”

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