Northern Irish start-up raises $3m to expand farming data platform

24 May 2022

CropSafe founders John McElhone and Micheál McLaughlin. Image: CropSafe

CropSafe’s platform lets farmers create alerts and use customisable modules to monitor conditions on their farm.

CropSafe, a start-up developing a platform to help with farm management, has raised $3m in seed funding to boost its growth in the US and expand its team.

The funding round was led by VC firm Elefund, with participation from Foundation Capital, Global Founders Capital, V1.VC and Great Oaks Capital. It also included backing from angel investors Cory Levy, Josh Browder and former Microsoft head of strategy Charlie Songhurst.

CropSafe’s platform helps with farm management by letting users create alerts and use real-time modules to monitor various topics that are important to their farm, from weather to crop health.

Conditions can be monitored remotely through CropSafe’s network of global weather stations and orbital satellites. Users can access data from the web or set up alerts from the CropSafe app.

The start-up began life in Northern Ireland but has now opened a headquarters in Los Angeles as it plans to boost growth in the US market.

Growing up in agriculture backgrounds, co-founders John McElhone and Micheál McLaughlin first created the idea for CropSafe around three years ago while they were still in secondary school in Magherafelt.

CropSafe CEO McElhone told that it began as something that could be used by their neighbours and in their own farms.

“We realised there was a lot of this new software coming into the market for farmers,” he said. “But nobody had a clue how to use all this new satellite imagery, all these graphing tools, it was data science tools for farmers.

“We wanted to build something that would basically simplify all this complicated data, and just tell farmers exactly what to do.”

McElhone said the platform is currently being used by farmers across the world. CropSafe has developed a marketplace of modules that farmers can enable based on the needs of their farm, which McElhone said makes it easy to tailor the platform to different farmers.

“For example, pretty much every single one of our California farmers have the wildfire module enabled on their account because there’s quite a lot of wildfires in California. Whereas in Ireland, not a single one of our farmers have that one enabled,” he explained.

“But all the farmers in Ireland, for example, have heavy rainfall, frost, all those modules enabled in their farm and they can tailor them wherever they want, such as text message alerts or email alerts.”

Financial services and team expansion

CropSafe plans to use the funding raised to accelerate its growth in the US market, which McElhone described as “the largest market in the world right now” for its farming platform.

The start-up also plans to expand its team by six, with new recruits focused on software engineering, product management and design.

McElhone said the CropSafe platform is free for farmers and the team has no plans to change this as “that’s an important part of what we’re building”. He said that the volumes of data the app has on farms means that the platform can predict key bottlenecks, which can be branched into a financial service.

“Say a farmer is leasing three combines this year, we’ll be able to say ‘Hey, if you lease an additional combine, you’ll be able to produce so and so much more efficiently,’” McElhone said. “So what we’re going to do within CropSafe is pre-approved instant financing for the farmer to loan that combine tomorrow, instead of having to go to the bank and fill 500 pages of paperwork.”

McElhone said the main focus for the year ahead is to relate the financial services to CropSafe’s customers and to expand the team.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic