Ag Funder news

Canadian Govt Joins PE Investors to Back Pest-Reducing Sensor Company’s $9m Seed Round

SemiosBio Technologies, a Canada-headquartered company, manufacturing sensors for specialty crop orchards, has raised nearly $9 million in seed funding.

The company, which has 50k sensors deployed over 10k acres of land worldwide, raised the funding from a group of individual private equity investors and the Canadian government, according to a press release.

Leading the investment group was Reid Carter, who’s a managing partner at Brookfield Asset Management focused particularly on its timberland assets.

The Government of Canada made its investment through the Growing Forward 2, AgriInnovation Program, a five-year, $698 million initiative.

“The government is pleased to support this innovative project that will help the sector adopt fully integrated pest management systems,” said Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in a statement. “Initiatives such as these help farmers continue to be good stewards of the land, while maintaining their competitiveness.

Semios promises growers real-time insights into the risks associated with weather, pests, disease, frost and irrigation through its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform.

The sensors it deploys measure a range of different conditions including leaf wetness and soil moisture, but they also undertake actions such as trapping insects and dispensing pheromones.

Pheromones can interrupt pest mating seasons and actively control pest numbers. With the decline in bees and other beneficial insect species, non-toxic and specifies-specific pheromone products are becoming an increasingly important alternative to insecticides.

“We are at a pivotal point in the company’s growth,” said Michael Gilbert, founder and CEO of Semios in a statement. “Adoption of our platform is accelerating, and our growers are asking for more features and services. With this new level of investor expertise and confidence, we’ll be able to expand the platform and accelerate the growth of our business.”

The funding will go towards expanding the services the company offers growers, such as new aerosol pheromone formulas to target an increasing number of pests prevalent in orchards and vineyards. It will also go towards increasing its sales efforts, R&D, and improving its big data analytics to better predict the risk of frost inversions, diseases, and non-optimized irrigation.

“Semios continues to demonstrate an exceptional level of innovation and functionality in its precision farming platform and is now at a stage where more resources will help meet the exponential growth in demand for operational deployment,” said Carter in a statement.

While Semois was founded in 2010, it didn’t start selling sensors until 2014. This latest round adds to some $6 million of earlier seed investment from the last four years, according to a spokesperson. Haywood Securities, an investment firm out of the UK, helped with the fundraising.

Source: AgFunder News

vancouver sun

Vancouver-based Semios harvests revenue from research

Good news comes in bunches for Semios.

The Vancouver-based agriculture tech firm has announced a private capital infusion of $8 million, a $1-million grant from Agriculture Canada and two regulatory approvals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State of California.

“These investors are very bullish on our technology and they have had success in the ag-tech space before,” said Semios CEO Michael Gilbert.

But that’s not all. After several years of field trials on the company’s pheromone-based insect control and precision temperature and moisture sensor systems, Semios will realize $2 million in positive cash flow this growing season from orchardists in B.C., Washington and California.

“That is going to be annual recurring revenue,” said Gilbert. Orchardists pay a subscription for the services and analytics provided by Semios, which can be accessed by computer or smartphone.

Semios systems use thousands of wireless sensors and real-time analytics to monitor temperature, soil moisture, disease and pest pressure in fruit and nut orchards and to direct exactly when and where to apply pest controls, water and other resources. Frost prediction helps direct planting and harvesting to reduce crop losses, while disease sensing informs precision application of anti-fungals.

“We want to be the new Farmers’ Almanac,”said Gilbert. “But instead of being accurate to within a few weeks we want to predict things like frost down to 12 hours. It’s a cruel trick of nature that the most frost-prone land is also the land that produces the best fruit.”

The federal investment — award through the Growing Forward 2 program — will be used to develop surveillance tools for fire blight in apples, and downy and powdery mildews in grapes, with field testing in locations across the country

Much of the private cash will be applied to expanding the firm’s data analytics department in an effort to develop new services for farmers from the tsunami of sensor data rolling in from clients.

With 50,000 sensors over 4,000 hectares reporting every 10 minutes, there is no shortage of Big Data to sift through.

“We could grow organically now that we have cash flow, but we would like to expand and hire analysts,” said Gilbert. “Everything in agriculture is driven by moisture and temperature and the relationships between them and other factors, so we know we can learn a lot more from that data about those relationships.”

Semios will also introduce new aerosol pheromone formulas for vineyards. The pheromone-based systems are designed to reduce or replace the use of toxic pesticides for insect control.

Source: Vancouver Sun

food in canada

Canada invests in tech to forecast farm fruit diseases

This project from SemiosBio Technologies Inc. will focus specifically on fire blight in apples, and downy and powdery mildews in grapes.

The Government of Canada is investing nearly a million dollars ($949,322) in a project to develop wireless technology that’s capable of predicting diseases that affect farm output.

This investment with Vancouver-based SemiosBio Technologies Inc. is expected to provide farmers with real-time localized information to better manage plant diseases and optimize the use of pesticides. This project will focus specifically on fire blight in apples, and downy and powdery mildews in grapes, with field testing in locations across the country.

SemiosBio is a company that provides safe and environmentally-friendly pest management solutions to growers of tree fruits, nuts and grapes. The company has already developed a sensor and pest management system for codling moths in apples, with support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

This current investment is being made through the Growing Forward 2, AgriInnovation Program, a five-year, up to $698 million initiative.

“The government is pleased to support this innovative project that will help the sector adopt fully integrated pest management systems. Initiatives such as these help farmers continue to be good stewards of the land, while maintaining their competitiveness,” says Lawrence MacAulay, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

“The agriculture industry is under tremendous pressure to produce more food with less environmental impact. To do this we need to optimize inputs such as insecticides, fungicides and water. Leveraging a proprietary internet-of-things (IoT) wireless network of 50,000 sensors and big data analytics, Semios delivers a precision ag service to measure and manage disease risks with less chemical inputs. With the financial support from AAFC, Semios will help growers better understand and predict crop disease, with focused treatments when and where needed,” adds Michael Gilbert, CEO of SemiosBIO.

Source: Food in Canada

cantech letter

Vancouver’s Semios raises $8 million funding for pest control platform

Vancouver’s Semios, a provider of agricultural precision pest management technology, has closed an $8 million financing round, led by a group of private investors from the Agtech community, with an assist from Haywood Securities.
Founded in 2010, Semios claims to have seen over 200% annual growth for its patented Semios platform, which monitors the quantity of pests, along with flight strength, wind patterns and temperature to optimize pheromone deployment in the field, all through a single interface that a farmer can easily control.
Brookfield Asset Management Managing Partner Reid Carter, who was recently appointed to the Semios board as a representative of the funding group said, “Semios continues to demonstrate an exceptional level of innovation and functionality in its precision farming platform and is now at a stage where more resources will help meet the exponential growth in demand for operational deployment.”
Semios plans to use the funds to expand sales, services and R&D efforts.
Demand for the Semios pest control platform is partly driven by the recent decline in the bee population and other beneficial insect species, owing to which farmers and regulatory agencies are increasingly looking to non-toxic and specifies-specific pheromone products and insecticide alternatives.

“We are at a pivotal point in the company’s growth with more than 50,000 sensors deployed and over 10,000 acres under management,” said Semios Founder and CEO Michael Gilbert. “Adoption of our platform is accelerating and our growers are asking for more features and services. With this new level of investor expertise and confidence, we’ll be able to expand the platform and accelerate the growth of our business.”
Last month, Semios received approvals from both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Department of Pest Regulation (DPR) for their aerosol pheromone biopesticide products aimed at disrupting the mating habits of the Navel Orangeworm.
The Semios platform offers farmers real-time remote access to monitoring field conditions on an acre-by-acre basis, helping to manage deployment of pheromones, frost prevention and optimization of irrigation schedules, reducing risk, protecting crops and increasing crop profitability.
Semios will continue adding new services, including novel aerosol pheromone formulas targeting orchard and vineyard pests, along with platform enhancements including improved big data analytics to predict the risk of frost inversions, diseases and non-optimized irrigation.

Source: Cantech Letter

ein news logo

Semios raises $8M in private equity financing

Semios, a leading provider of real-time agricultural information and precision pest management tools, today announced it has closed an $8 million financing with private equity individuals from the Agtech community, with assistance from Haywood Securities.

Founded in 2010, Semios has grown to be the largest worldwide network of sensors and control devices in specialty crops. The Semios internet-of-things (IoT) solution provides real-time insights into risks associated with weather, pests, disease, frost and irrigation on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis.

Combining remote access to real-time field conditions and acre-by-acre metered delivery of inputs is the cornerstone of precision agriculture. Semios enables improved deployment of pheromones, frost prevention and optimization of irrigation schedules. These types of services help reduce risks, protect valuable crops and ultimately improve the grower’s profitability.

Michael Gilbert, Founder and CEO of Semios, said, “We are at a pivotal point in the company’s growth with more than 50,000 sensors deployed and over 10,000 acres under management. Adoption of our platform is accelerating and our growers are asking for more features and services. With this new level of investor expertise and confidence, we’ll be able to expand the platform and accelerate the growth of our business.”

With over 200% annual growth, the company will use the funds to expand sales, services and R&D efforts. The team continues to add new services including novel aerosol pheromone formulas to target more orchard and vineyard pests. With the decline in bees and other beneficial insect species, non-toxic and specifies-specific pheromone products are becoming an increasingly important alternative to insecticides. Other enhancements to the platform include improved big data analytics to predict the risk of frost inversions, diseases and non-optimized irrigation.

Reid Carter, a recently appointed Semios Board Member representing the new investment group said, “Semios continues to demonstrate an exceptional level of innovation and functionality in its precision farming platform and is now at a stage where more resources will help meet the exponential growth in demand for operational deployment.”

About Semios

Semios is a precision farming company dedicated to reducing and mitigating risks for growers of tree fruits, nuts and grapes. We leverage our proprietary internet of things (IoT) wireless network and big data analytics to help manage insect pests, disease, frost and irrigation. We improve sustainability, reduce inputs and increase value of harvests. Delivered as a full service solution, Semios is easy to start and simple to use.

Source: EIN NEWS

financial post

The best way to price your product is to prove it works, and the IoT is making that possible

This is not a story about moths or sex. It’s about the future of your business. But let’s start with the moths.

Across North America, orchard owners are fighting a desperate battle against the codling moth. At the larval stage, these voracious predators tunnel into apples, pears and plums, where they snack on the seeds and ruin the fruit. Left unchecked, it could destroy 80 per cent of a fruit crop.

Science is fighting back. One of the most popular defenses against the codling moth is “mating disruption.” Farmers place pheromone dispensers around their orchards that spray out synthesized scents like those released by female moths to attract amorous males. Result: the male moths get confused when they can’t find their mates, and fly away unsatisfied. Generations of larvae go unborn, and farmers increase their crop yields while minimizing use of pesticides.

But synthetic moth hormones are expensive, so farmers are getting help from Semios, a Vancouver-based tech company that covers orchards with wireless sensors, mini-cameras, pest traps and pheromone dispensers that enable fruit growers to monitor conditions throughout their property and trigger their scent sprayers through a computer or smartphone.

“Semios is the most complex company I know,” said Steven Forth, a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Vancouver-based TeamFit. Its array of data, collected through its proprietary communications systems, give farmers more information, and control, than they’ve ever had. As a result, Forth told a recent Toronto conference on pricing, “They get an annual subscription price of US$180 to US$260 an acre.” How do you like them apples?

The theme of this conference was “Future-proofing your revenue model.” As I noted last week, the conference’s first half dealt mainly with the psychology of pricing. The second half was more complex, exploring the growing links between pricing, data and the emerging Internet of Things, or IoT.

When people start discussing machine-to-machine communications, I usually leave the room. But Forth’s moth story caught my interest. IoT isn’t just about collecting more data – it’s about creating knowledge and aggressive new pricing models based not on guesswork, but on understanding exactly how your product or service creates value.

“Pricing should be based on how the customer gets and perceives value,” Forth said. He predicts data-driven vendors such as Semios “will sweep across all industries.” As the IoT creates a new world of data-driven decision-making, the companies that generate the highest profit margins will be those that can prove their products work and demonstrate exactly how much value they create.

For instance, Forth said, the value of paint isn’t found in the size of the bucket, but in how much wall area it will cover. “You have to know your value drivers. And you have to know how to extend your data model to capture the data you need for better pricing.”

If your head’s not spinning now, it should be. “We’re going into uncharted territory,” noted conference organizer Augustin Manchon, a Toronto-based pricing consultant. “The Internet of Things is an amazing platform for discovering new pricing models no one has ever used.”

Brendan O’Brien, co-founder and chief evangelist of Philadelphia-based Aria Systems, contends the IoT will not just create new businesses, but also new opportunities to sell. Aria helps companies develop recurring-revenue models, like Semios’s, turning what might have been a one-time service into a contract.

Businesses that chase single sales spend a fortune on customer acquisition, and then another on customer re-acquisition, O’Brien said. By developing recurring services for your customers, you create “not just one transaction, but a textured relationship around hopefully infinite future transactions.”

As an example he cites Netflix, which leveraged online streaming to change the video-rental business into a value-priced annual subscription model. Last year, Audi launched beta-testing in San Francisco for “Audi on Demand,” a premium, app-based car-sharing service.

Then there’s Amazon.com’s much-derided Dash Button, a handheld branded “clicker” for Tide detergent, Kraft Dinner, and other consumer staples. The device connects with your home WiFi network; when you’re about to run out of a product, you “click” the button and Amazon will rush out a replacement, usually by the next day. (The service is not yet available in Canada.) While many pundits have laughed off those clunky clickers and the narrow consumerism they represent, O’Brien said Amazon is developing “a tethered, ongoing relationship with its customers.”

He contends every company should be developing recurring business models. Identify the data that drives your business, then figure out what additional knowledge or services you need to hook your customers to a steady drip of your product. “You have to be fast and agile to deal with the changed services landscape,” O’Brien warned. “We are about to embark on the greatest competitive landscape of all time. You don’t have five to seven years to do something and bring it to market.”

Rick Spence is a writer, consultant and speaker specializing in entrepreneurship.

Source: Financial Post

western farm press

California DPR, EPA approve Semios NOW control

Pheromone biopesticide can be used for mating disruption programs.

California has approved another tool for growers working to control the navel orangeworm (NOW).

Semios was granted label approval by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and similar approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for an aerosol pheromone biopesticide that disrupts NOW mating.

According to the company, the Semios NOW pheromone aerosol formulas give farmers the ability to reduce and control pest populations and, as a result, significantly reduce crop damage. The pheromone aerosol dispenser is part of a custom designed controller and sensor network.

The Semios platform includes in-field camera traps that monitor the number of pests and flight strength, which when combined with wind, temperature and other environmental conditions measured and reported by Semios, optimize pheromone deployment. The combination of traps, pheromone dispensers and other sensors on the same network means farmers can deploy the right amount of pheromones where and when needed through a single interface.

Semios NOW Plus and Semios NOW Standard (for organic growers) are available for control of NOW in orchards growing walnuts, pistachios, almonds, dates, figs, citrus, pome and stone fruits.

Pheromones are a naturally occurring part of the communication systems used by insects. Semios uses pheromones to disrupt the mating cycle of insects, thus diminishing pest populations and reducing crop damage.

Semios is a precision farming platform that provides real-time information and pest management tools for the tree fruit, nut and grape growers. Semios combines hardware with powerful secure online software that monitors field and weather conditions and allows remote pest monitoring and deployment of mating disruption pheromones.

Source: Western Farm Press

fruit growers news

EPA approves biopesticide for navel orangeworm

Semios has received EPA approval and California Department of Pest Regulation approval for aerosol pheromone biopesticide products that disrupt the mating of the navel orangeworm (NOW).

The Semios platform includes in-field camera traps that monitor the number of pests and flight strength. When combined with wind, temperature and other environmental conditions measured and reported by Semios, pheromone deployment is optimized, according to Semios. The combination of traps, pheromone dispensers and other sensors on the same network means farmers can deploy the right amount of pheromones where and when needed through a single interface, the company said.

Semios NOW Plus and Semios NOW Standard (for organic growers) are available for control of NOW in orchards growing dates, figs, citrus, pome and stone fruits.

Pheromones are a naturally occurring part of the communication systems used by insects. Semios uses pheromones to disrupt the mating cycle of insects, the company said. Pheromones do not kill or damage the target insects and, as pheromones are species-specific and only target the specific pest, pollinators and other beneficial insect species are not affected, according to the company.

Source: Fruit Growers News

orchard and vine

Wireless Networks Move Pheromones Towards Mainstream Pest Control

Precision agriculture isn’t just for cereal crops anymore. BC-based company, Semios is using wireless technology in orchards and vineyards to monitor pests and apply pheromones instead of commercial pesticides for crop protection. The system is a breakthrough for producers looking to reduce or replace insecticide controls, and is already expanding applications in orchard management.

Pheromones are chemical signals used by many animals to communicate. In agriculture, they are used to change or disrupt insect behaviors, like mating, to reduce populations. While they have long been recognized as a viable protection solution, there has been no reliable system to deliver them when and where they were needed – until now.

“We thought that perhaps technology could enable and improve adoption of pheromones in crop protection,” says Michael Gilbert, CEO of Semios. “Using our network, we deliver enough of the right pheromone at the right time to get the same effect as we would with other controls.”

The Semios system uses cellular networks to connect a system of sensors, including traps and monitors, to remotely trigger a high burst application of pheromones for specific pests from an aerosol dispenser. The work to develop and test the application was supported through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program (Agri-Innovation) delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC (IAF).

Using the Semios system farmers require only one can per acre instead of the 600-1000 of the pheromone dispensers used in passive release systems. Data is collected from the network of sensors, and delivered to an online control centre that producers can access from their computer or mobile devices. The network and equipment is managed by Semios when farmers subscribe to the service, reducing the risk of the investment and learning curve.

“We are talking about real time interactive control of these pests,” says Gilbert. “The way the system is built, growers from their phone can change when and where the pheromones are delivered on demand, and within 10 minutes every single sensor in their field will be on the new schedule.”

The system was first applied to control coddling moths in apples, and has since expanded to nine different pests in seven different crops across the United States, Europe and Canada. Currently 200 farms, representing 7000 acres of orchards and vineyards, are using the Semios system.

“IAF offered the first program to fund our agricultural projects, and they have been a great partner for us,” says Gilbert. “The adoption of our metered systems got us in to big farms, and allowed us to further develop the platform, and now we do everything from remotely monitoring insect pressure in real time, as well as disease risk, frost risk and soil moisture irrigation. We now have added all these modules that truly provide a platform for the grower looking to move into the next stage of precision farming.”

Funding for the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program is provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.
Funding is still available to support the commercialization and adoption of innovation projects that benefit individual enterprises and positively impact the BC agriculture and agri-foods sector as a whole.

Source: Orchard and Vine Online

cbc news

Pheromones offer green alternative to pesticide sprays

Sex chemicals confuse male insects into looking for love in all the wrong places.

Don’t like pesticides being sprayed on your fruit? Some farmers are now turning to the green alternative of pheromones, the alluring chemicals female insects use to attract males. Pheromones are scent-like chemical signals used by many animals to communicate. For example, they’re emitted by a female moth, beetle or other insect as “come hither” calls to prospective suitors.

By spraying pheromones into the air in orchards and vineyards, farmers can confuse male insects into thinking that females are calling from all directions. The males go looking for love in all the wrong places, while the females wait helplessly for their calls to be answered — and the star-crossed lovers never find one another. Unable to mate, they don’t produce babies — offspring that take the form of worms in the fruit we eat.

Pollinators unharmed

Pheromones have a number of advantages. Insecticides don’t just kill pests, but also beneficial insects such as pollinators and pest-eating predators. Pheromones, on the other hand, are precisely targeted, because each insect species has its own chemically distinct pheromone.

That means a given pheromone can target just the single insect species that’s causing damage “while in no shape or form affecting any other moth around or any other insect for that matter,” says Michael Gilbert, CEO of Vancouver-based Semios, a company that makes high-tech automated systems for farms that dispense pheromones. Nor do pheromones affect any other organisms, including humans. They can be used by both organic and conventional growers.

David Knight, owner of Knights Appleden apple orchard in Colborne, Ont., has used Semios’s system for the past two seasons as part of a regulatory trial. The system detects moths, and automatically dispenses pheromones as needed into the air as an aerosol spray. (It is not sprayed directly on the fruit). One dispenser is hung in each acre, and male insects are extremely sensitive, so only tiny amounts are needed — about two tablespoons per dispenser per year.

“It was fantastic for the simple fact that it is less costly than spraying [insecticides],” he said.

Insecticides aren’t just expensive to buy, but also time-consuming and labour-intensive to apply, Knight said. And because they’re toxic, workers can’t enter the orchard for a certain number of days after spraying.

Knight says fruit growers like himself — who rely heavily on pollinators to produce their fruit — are also keenly aware of the environmental risk posed by pesticides.

‘Great PR thing’

While apples are vulnerable to many pests that can’t be targeted with pheromones, including the apple maggot and fungal disease called apple scab, using the moth pheromones allowed Knight to eliminate one of three or four insecticide sprays per year from his orchard.

“It’s a great PR thing for a business to say, ‘This is what we’re doing — we’re actively reducing any chemicals we use,'” added Knight, who sells his apples to large supermarket chains such as Sobeys and Metro.

Based on the results of the trial, Semios got approval from Health Canada in May for the first aerosol pheromone on the national market, one that targets the oriental fruit moth, an invasive species that can damage a wide range of fruits, including apples, pears, cherries, apricots and peaches.

Gilbert says most other pheromones on the market have been passive sources — similar to a potpourri jar as opposed to a spray — that are far more labour intensive to use, requiring hundreds of dispensers per acre.

Kirk Hillier, a biologist at Acadia University who studies how insects communicate with pheromones, says pheromones are most typically used as lures for traps. Those are often used to monitor pest levels in order to optimize the timing of pesticide sprays and eliminate unnecessary sprays, although they can sometimes also eliminate insects directly.

He added that pheromones have been shown to be effective at controlling a variety of agricultural pests, including the grapevine borer in Italy, the red palm weevil, and boll weevils that attack cotton. They’re also used in household traps for pests such as German cockroaches, and to monitor forestry pests such as the spruce budworm, gypsy moths and mountain pine beetles.

Niche market

Pheromones, Hillier said, are still a niche market compared to the global insecticide market, which was worth $58.8 billion US in 2014, according to the business intelligence firm Mordor Intelligence. “Insecticides, if they work, will produce flawless fruit. And it’s hard to compete with that,” Hillier said.

Meanwhile, he added, “There are large chemical companies that back the use of pesticides, and they have a very vested interest in maintaining the status quo.” Hillier is part of Green Insect Management Innovation and Knowledge, project in Atlantic Canada that aims to help bring more pest control pheromones to market.

Knight is one farmer who is already convinced of the value of pheromones. Following the trial, he decided to pay for a subscription to Semios’s system for part of his farm (he couldn’t afford it for all 240 hectares at once).

In addition to the pheromones, he also likes other “smart farm” features that come with the system, including sensors that measure temperature and moisture. They help predict the risk of other pests such as fire blight, helping reduce the amount of spraying required for those as well.

Farmers reaping big rewards from new smartphone apps

He thinks other farmers will soon follow suit. “I could see this technology be completely mainstream in our industry in the next five or six years.”

Source: CBC News