18. Indigo Agriculture

Seeding the world.

Founders: Noubar Afeyan, David Berry, Geoffrey von Maltzahn
CEO: David Perry
Launched: 2014
Headquarters: Boston
$400+ million
Valuation: $1.4 billion
Key technologies:
Machine learning
Agriculture, farming

George Kavallines | CNBC

Producing enough food to feed the estimated 10 billion people that will be living on the planet by 2050 — and doing it sustainably — is at the heart of Indigo Agriculture. This Boston-based agricultural technology start-up is creating seed treatments that optimize the health of a plant in order to increase its yield. Currently, the company's seed treatments are used for five major row crops: corn, wheat, soybeans, rice and cotton.

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The company's focus is on microbes, the tiny microorganisms that help plants grow. It has identified the ones that enable plants to be resistant to drought and those that help reduce the need for fertilizer. The company's products coat the seeds with these beneficial microbes before farmers plant them, in order to maximize the health and ultimately the plant's yield. In some cases the seed coating is used to make the plant more resilient in regions that are prone to drought.

David Perry joined as CEO in 2015, a year after the company was founded. Previously, he had run and sold two successful start-ups, one of which was acquired by Pfizer for $5.2 billion. Indigo Ag had 14 employees when he came on board. Today the company employs 350 people and has expanded operations to three other countries — Argentina, Australia and Brazil. Indigo Ag's last funding round closed in December and raised $203 million from Investment Corp of Dubai, Activant Capital and Baillie Gifford, bringing its total to around $400 million.