A year after closing one of the biggest venture capital rounds the region has ever seen, Fredericton-based Resson is gearing up for the full commercial launch of its agtech product in 2018.
In a phone interview from his Silicon Valley office, Executive Chairman Jeff Grammer said the company is still working with its partners on its beta products for the coming growing season. With operations in the northern and southern hemispheres, Resson can beta-test its data analytics systems through two growing seasons before a full launch in 2018.
“We’re right on schedule in commercial paid beta testing,” said Grammer. “We’re still adding the features before the launch and adding to the number of acres [covered in the beta tests].”
Grammer is a partner in Rho Canada Ventures, which invested in four Atlantic Canadian startups in 2013-14. In 2014, Rho and Build Ventures led a $3 million round in Resson, which had developed data analytics software for agriculture, drawing data from sensors in fields or on tractors, and from drones. Still in beta mode, the company is developing predictive analytics tools that can improve crop yields.
Last spring, Resson raised US$11 million (C$14 million) from Monsanto Growth Ventures and other investors, and Grammer took the top executive position at the company. The investors included McCain Foods Ltd., which has been a customer of Resson for the past three years, as well as New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, BDC Capital and members of East Valley Ventures.
Following the funding, Resson opened an office in San Jose, Calif., which has now grown to five people. Grammer said the office, which will not add further staff, includes business development people and experts in some of the specialist and high-value crops the company is now targeting. California produces a lot of high-value crops and Resson wants to be in a position to work with farms and vinyards around the state.
The bulk of the operations is still in Fredericton, where Co-Founders Rishin Behl and Peter Goggin now have a staff of about 40 people. The Fredericton office includes the engineering department, which has special strength in computer vision and machine learning, and field crews that include everything from agronomists to drone operators. It is the Fredericton office, said Grammer, that stands to grow as the company gains traction.
He said the company is now working with “a few” clients, and other than Monsanto and McCain they generally prefer not to be named yet.
With a background as a tech entrepreneur, Grammer said he’s learning a lot about agriculture. “It’s very similar to the last company I ran 11 year ago … where it’s all a big data play that’s focused on tying it into a vertical,” said Grammer. “This time, that vertical happens to be agriculture. I’ve learned quite a bit in the last two years and continue to learn something new every day.”
The company now is gearing up for 2018, when it plans to be analyzing “multiple crops over multiple geographies.” Asked if Resson might consider a C Round following the commercial launch, Grammer said it’s a possibility if more capital would help the company to scale but it feels no urgency to raise money.
“We’re right on track now for where we want to be and it’s a very excite sector,” he said “Our goal is to be the world leader in the predictive analytics side of it.”