SALIC leads round for UK crop analytics company Hummingbird Technologies

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Global AgInvesting | 24 May 2019

SALIC leads round for UK crop analytics company Hummingbird Technologies
 
By Lynda Kiernan
 
The Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co. (SALIC) has led a £7 million (US$8.84 million) funding round for UK crop analytics company Hummingbird Technologies, bringing Hummingbird’s valuation to £30 million (US$38 million).
 
The announcement of this round comes about a year after UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met for talks during which they laid out their goal of establishing trade and investment ties between the country and the kingdom worth £65 billion (US$82.5 billion).
 
Founded at the Imperial College Technology Incubator by William Wells in 2016, London-based Hummingbird is an advanced crop analytics company that combines the power of AI, satellite imagery, and drone technology to generate high-resolution maps that can give farmers early detection of crop stress, disease and weed issues, and early yield prediction.
 
For the Saudi state-based SALIC, which is led by former COFCO International head Matthew Jansen, the investment in Hummingbird reflects its ambitions to evolve into a global agribusiness investment company, and is a strong strategic move after its string of farmland deals this past year.
 
In September 2018 the UK unit of SALIC agreed to acquire Ukrainian farming company Mriya. Included in the transaction were Mriya’s Ukrainian farmland, infrastructure facilities, machinery, and land-lease agreements. All told, SALIC gained control of 150,000 hectares of farmland in central and western Ukraine, four grain elevators, two processing plants, a potato storage facility, and equipment.
 
Three months later, SALIC acquired a 33 percent stake in United Farmers Holding Company from Almarai Group  for $28 million. Both SALIC and Almarai are two of the original consortium owners of United Farmers Holding – which in 2013 acquired Continental Farmers Group (CFG) for $80.2 million.
 
Founded by CEO Mark Laird in 2006, CFG is a farming business in Ukraine which operates 45,000 hectares of farmland in Lviv and Ternopil Oblast. Now under the control of SALIC, SALIC has consolidated CFG’s operations with those of Ukrainian farming company, Mriya.
 
“Over the next two years, we plan to significantly invest into new equipment, infrastructure, agricultural technology and land bank consolidation as well as work closely with the local management to build the combined Mriya and CFG operations into a World Class farming operation,” said Mark Laird, CEO of CFG at the time.
 
Then, just months later, in April of this year, SALIC significantly expanded its global farmland holdings once again, acquiring Australia’s 200,000-hectare Baladjie Pty Ltd from John Nicoletti for an undisclosed sum.
 
“We see Hummingbird as an attractive investment from our global portfolio’s point of view and see it as a means of driving and accelerating innovative best practice adoption across our global farmland production operation,” said Jansen.
 
For Hummingbird, the tie-in with SALIC provides the company with access to a massive global bank of farmland.
 
“As a machine learning business, our technology thrives on having more data to work with,” said William Wells, CEO of Hummingbird, according to FT. “Gaining access to Salic’s portfolio gives us an unprecedented opportunity to hone our capabilities even further.”
 
With a current team of 40 employees, and additional offices in Sydney, Sao Paulo, Lviv, and Moscow, Hummingbird plans to use the funds gained through this round to support its plans to expand both its team and its global presence.
 
“We are thrilled to announce this transformative equity deal for Hummingbird, which also includes a global commercial dynamic to roll out our offering on an unprecedented scale,” said Wells.
 
~ Lynda Kiernan
Original source: GAI
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