MI Roundup: Plymouth Ventures, FarmLogs, Start Garden

Here’s a look at news from around Michigan’s innovation hubs:

—Things are going gangbusters for the Ann Arbor-based ag-tech startup FarmLogs. Founder and CEO Jesse Vollmar says his company, which has developed software that helps farmers track and leverag precise agricultural data, is now being used by 15 percent of U.S. farms. That number represents $11 billion worth of crops under management.

“We’re really excited,” Vollmar says. “It’s really amazing to see the changes.”

When asked about drones—another high-tech tool many farmers are eager to start using—Vollmar explains that FarmLogs’ software is compatible. “We’ll help turn the data collected by drones into something they can act on,” he says. “We’ve been building models that can analyze imagery.”

Vollmar says the FarmLogs team has grown to 18 full-time employees plus interns at a newish office in the Kerrytown neighborhood. The company is now focused on finishing its mobile app, and it recently launched a machine-integration feature, which allows farmers to load yield information onto FarmLogs’ software.

—The private equity firm Beringea, which is based in Farmington Hills and London, led a $12 million Series D round for InContext Solutions, a Chicago-based market research firm that specializes in virtual store research, simulations, and software for manufacturers and retailers. Also participating in the round were Ann Arbor-based Plymouth Ventures and Chicago-based Hyde Park Venture Partners.

Jeff Barry, a partner at Plymouth Ventures, says his firm got involved with the company in 2012 and was attracted to InContext because “the technology is superb—they’re taking market research and making it virtual, and they can get any demographic in minutes.”

InContext plans to use the new money to expand its virtual simulation and research presence worldwide.

Start Garden, the Grand Rapids seed fund backed by Rick DeVos, announced this week that is has invested $5,000 in Vaultd, a peer-to-peer storage service run by two University of Michigan students. Vaultd allows college students and others to store their belongings with people who have extra storage space. It also maintains a secure warehouse for additional storage.


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