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Hone Ag’s $6m Series A investment opportunity to unlock real-time agriculture data

Leading Australian agritech scaleup Hone Ag is seeking strategic partners and investors to scale the deployment of portable and affordable measurement tools to enable primary producers to make data driven decisions anywhere, anytime.

“In agriculture we simply don’t measure enough, or as frequently as we should because of the tyranny of distance, timeliness of information and cost,” explained Peter Johnston, Managing Director of agritech measurement scaleup, Hone Ag.

“It’s really hard and expensive to take a sample from the field and be able to manage it right through an analytical laboratory, and then decide what to do with that information. Everything moves quickly in a biological production system, so by the time you get the information back, the decision point has left you.”

Hone Ag has inverted the actual challenge, rather than trying to get the sample to the lab, we get the lab to the sample, Peter explained.

“This philosophy has changed the thinking on what is actually possible.”

Hone Ag’s initial challenge in grain quality led to identifying a $300 million opportunity per annum for the Australian cereal grains ($30b) industry by unlocking quality-based grain segregation, and increasing farmgate margins greater than 1%.

This valuable research led to strategic investment partnerships with independent agronomy groups, such as AMPS Agribusiness, scientific partnerships with CSIRO, industry partnerships with Cotton Seed Distributors as well as investment from GrainCorp in September 2021.

Image of the device on display at evokeᴬᴳ⋅2024.

Seven years on and 13 hardware iterations later, Hone Ag’s spectroscopic models and in-field capabilities continue to bloom, from grain quality and protein levels, to leaf tissue testing and soil carbon analysis – clearly demonstrating its value across various primary industry applications.

Participating in the Federal Government’s National Soil Carbon Innovation Challenge is also helping to expedite the deployment of Hone Ag’s measurement tools, with the deployment of 75 instruments over more than 100,000 hectares identifying clear strategies to reduce the cost of soil carbon measurement, seen as the most significant barrier to uptake.

Peter emphasised, “The spectroscopy science we’re using is not new though; it’s been around for 40 years. What we've done is put a wrapper of machine learning and artificial intelligence over the top of spectroscopy to build out extremely accurate and granular models – that’s our secret sauce.”

The Newcastle-based startup is now seeking strategic partners and AUD $6million Series A investment to expand market access internationally, scaleup manufacturing and support its product evolution.

Learn more about the commercial opportunity, via AgriFutures growAG. here. 

Developing robust hardware pays off for Hone Ag

"We're at an exciting inflection point. After investing significant time and resources in refining our hardware – that’s beautifully designed, robust, rugged and portable – and launching our initial applications, now we’re focused on maximising ROIC by leveraging the instrument to measure as many things as possible," said Dr Simon Wheeler, Hone Ag, Head of Operations.

“Hardware is hard and there’s a reason why there’s few successes in the space. It’s expensive, slow, and to iterate takes time. Hone Ag has been successful through the technical capability of our founders, our team, the belief of our investors, and the traction we've been able to demonstrate.”

But Hone Ag’s true strength lies within its predictive modelling tools – the platform behind the device.

Dr Simon Wheeler, Hone Ag, Head of Operations at evokeᴬᴳ⋅2024.

“This is what powers Hone Ag and enables us to rapidly and readily deploy, while compensating for the influences of environmental factors on measurement, accuracy and repeatability,” Simon added.   

As a result, Hone Ag has accelerated model development time from months to days, enabling the swift introduction of new market applications, once primary data is acquired. This delivers greater value for landholders, shareholders and the wider agricultural ecosystem.   

In addition to Hone Ag’s complex models and calibrations, it has near-limitless processing capabilities through the cloud, instead of locally. “The cloud does all the heavy lifting, so the device itself has really high performance in-field,” explained Peter, which rivals desktop laboratory instruments capabilities.  

Measured investment approach for high-impact strategy

To continue the trajectory of success, Hone Ag is seeking strategic and financial partners for its $6 million Series A investment round, broken into two tranches of $3 million, to ensure a mutually beneficial, ‘low-risk and high return investment’.

The investment serves to prioritise three areas of growth:

●       Accelerate market expansion through strategic partnerships with digital platforms, fostering synergistic value creation and geographical expansion.

●       Provide technical and financial support to drive the next phase of product and service evolution.

●       Develop model-building capabilities to broaden the range of industries served and revenue streams.

"The investment will help to increase the scale of manufacturing so we can deploy across Australia, penetrate international markets, as well as accelerate model development across a wider range of primary industries,” Simon added.

Hone Ag team connecting in Startup Alley evokeᴬᴳ⋅2024.

Hone Ag is also partnering with KPMG High Growth Ventures to strengthen its business model, ensuring resilience in both the investment community and risk management. This aligns with Hone Ag’s strategy to expand its partnerships with existing digital platforms, to continue to stack high-quality data for the industry, while accelerating growth.

The future lies in AI's insatiable appetite for data, Peter explained, with those generating it positioned for success in an increasingly commoditised landscape.

“Our core data creation is in high demand, as logistics hinder timely access, making our approach invaluable for informed decisions, particularly in agriculture.”

Simon concluded, “In the next 12 to 18 months we’ll focus on maximising the return of investment of our current hardware, and then developing the next generation sensor to enable better returns for our investors, higher accuracy and more applications in-field.  

“This approach will consolidate Hone Ag’s position not only in Australia but internationally as a market leader in agronomy faced measurement solutions – with a continued focus on delivering value-based outcomes for growers.”

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