After validating “enterprise farming playbook” in the US, IntelliCulture closes $3.5 million

AgTech startup is now looking to grow its team, double down on R&D.

Kitchener-Waterloo AgTech startup IntelliCulture has been busy over the last two years.

Since closing its seed round in 2022, the software company has continued to make inroads in the United States in securing large customers. Now, with a fresh funding round totalling $3.5 million CAD, IntelliCulture is looking to grow its team and double down on the safety and compliance features of its platform for high-value crop growers.

“We are really on the forefront of fantastically accurate, ground-truth data on how these crops are running that I don’t think is available today.” 

Cole Powers, IntelliCulture

The all-equity, all-primary round, which IntelliCulture is classifying as “series seed II,” was led by Serra Ventures, with participation from previous investor Emmertech, and new backer Tall Grass Ventures. 

Founded in 2018, IntelliCulture sells software to growers of high-value crops, such as those operating vineyards, orchards, and fruit and vegetable crops, areas that “haven’t typically been touched a whole lot from a technology standpoint,” co-founder and CEO Cole Powers told BetaKit in an interview.

IntelliCulture’s software helps growers plan equipment maintenance and labour, track and visualize critical activities such as sprays and harvests, and stay compliant with industry and safety regulations. 

Using third-party telematics devices to collect data, IntelliCulture’s platform analyzes and generates insights and visualizations from that data to help growers optimize their operations, and as a result, save money. Powers claimed that at least one of the startup’s customers has saved upwards of $30,000 in annual crop losses alone.

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IntelliCulture’s co-founders include Powers, CTO Michael Wu, and COO Ramin Shaikhi, a trio of mechanical engineering graduates from the University of Waterloo. Powers mentioned that all three co-founders were previously involved in the automotive industry and were curious to explore if the agricultural sector presented challenges that aligned with their combined skill set, which led to the creation of IntelliCulture.

When IntelliCulture raised its $1.7-million seed financing round, the startup had identified what Powers referred to as an “enterprise farming playbook.” After observing early signs of success with growers in Canada, the team believed they could achieve greater scale by marketing their software to Fortune 500 wineries and vineyards in the United States.

“We thought if we could raise a little bit of capital and replicate that playbook another 10 times, then we’re going to quickly become the vineyard market owner from an equipment management software standpoint, and fortunately, we were able to do that,” he added.

Powers claimed that IntelliCulture currently serves over 100 customers, some of which manage up to 40 vineyards or orchards apiece, and that the startup is now averaging between 150 and 200 percent year-over-year revenue growth. Its customers already include a few Fortune 500 growers, such as Constellation Brands, which owns wine brands including Kim Crawford, Meiomi, and Ruffino.

Up to 90 percent of IntelliCulture’s business is in the United States, with California being its largest market. (Photo courtesy of Cole Powers)

Vineyards currently account for roughly 50 percent of IntelliCulture’s business, with orchards taking up roughly 30 percent but being the fastest-growing market for the startup this year. Specialty fruit and vegetable crops, such as cauliflower and leafy greens, comprise the remaining 20 percent.

IntelliCulture began selling its software to orchards in Ontario, and recently launched in Europe, but today, up to 90 percent of its business is in the United States, with California being its largest market. The startup also operates in Washington, Oregon, and Texas.

This trend is common in Canada’s AgTech sector, where many startups find greater growth opportunities abroad. Despite Canada being the fifth-largest exporter of agricultural and agri-food products globally, Canadian AgTech firms typically target international markets for growth. 

Dan McCann, CEO of Regina-based agriculture drone startup, has previously noted to BetaKit that Canadian regulations frequently discourage AgTech startups from scaling domestically.

“Ag, in general, is hard, but we’ve got even more disparate and challenging weather up here north of the border, so being able to build a solution that proved a [return on investment (ROI)] to a Canadian farm stress-tested the ROI of the platform right out of the gate,” Powers said.

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Scaling to larger growers required IntelliCulture to “operationalize” its team by establishing necessary sales and customer success staff, while also balancing these needs with product-led growth. In less than two years, IntelliCulture’s team has grown from eight members in 2022 to more than double that size. The startup plans to use the new financing to continue expanding its team.

“We need to have enough boots on the ground to be there and meet our growers in the field,” said Powers. “But by the same token, these growers are so busy and they have so many problems and challenges that the product needs to really be able to be self-serve.”

IntelliCulture is also looking to use the new funding to double down on the safety and compliance features of its software. One area of significant investment is in safety and compliance, with features such as re-entry intervals, which help growers visualize fields that are “locked out” following a chemical spray for safety reasons.

“Historically how that’s been done is [growers] will have to post a big skull and crossbones sign at the main entrance, as goofy as it is, to say the field is locked out. But if folks go into the field from the side, for example, there’s not a whole lot of visibility into that field being locked out.”

The startup is also looking to focus on helping digitize daily safety inspections on farm machinery for growers, a process typically handled on paper. 

“We are really on the forefront of fantastically accurate, ground-truth data on how these crops are running that I don’t think is available today,” Powers added. “What that lets us do though, is start to develop more automated recommendations and insights, which is where I think you’ll see more and more investment from us.”

Feature image courtesy IntelliCulture

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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