CNBC Disruptor 50

3. Indigo Agriculture

Founders: David Berry, Geoffrey von Maltzahn and Noubar Afeyan
CEO: David Perry
Launched: 2014
Headquarters: Boston
Funding:
 $850 million
Valuation: $3.5 billion
Key technologies:
Artificial intelligence, machine learning
Industry: 
Agriculture, farming
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 2 (No. 1 in 2019)

George Kavallines

Consumer demand for healthier, sustainable and traceable food is growing — even in the face of the coronavirus crisis. This agricultural technology start-up creates seed treatments that optimize the health of a plant in order to increase its yield. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has launched several efforts to support growers as they make their way through a planting season unlike any other. For instance, the company's GrainWaves podcast offers real-time market insights, and its transportation logistics support hotline is available to any carrier. 

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Indigo Agriculture's mission is to use natural microbiology and technology to improve sustainability, profits for growers and consumer health. The company's seed treatments are used for corn, wheat, soybeans, rice and cotton. In 2018, the company rolled out Indigo Marketplace, a digital platform that connects grain growers directly with buyers willing to pay for high-quality crops that retain their unique identities rather than those that get combined with similar crops. Its Indigo Carbon offering gives growers a financial incentive to enrich their soil with carbon.

The company also announced a partnership with Anheuser-Busch to deliver 2.2 million bushels of rice grown with specific environmental attributes. Rice grown for the partnership reduces water and nitrogen use by 10% and achieves at least 10% savings in greenhouse gas emissions compared to state benchmarks.

In May, Indigo joined an alliance led by the World Bank to help supply real-time satellite agricultural data generated by Indigo Atlas to advance food security across the world. Indigo Atlas, which combines remote sensing, ground equipment, historical and weather data, is capable of identifying subtle differences in crop performance across regions. 

The company's focus on technology as a tool to reimagine agriculture is wildly appealing to investors. In January it closed $200 million in financing, bringing its total funding to $850 million. In 2015 David Perry joined as CEO. He had previously run and sold two successful start-ups, one of which was acquired by Pfizer for $5.2 billion. Indigo Agriculture has more than 1,000 employees and six global locations.

A look back at the CNBC Disruptor 50: 8 years, 209 companies