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Software for soil: Terramera uses chemistry, tech for farmers

An example of enrichSoil, the soil health analysis software from Terramera subsidiary enrichAg, at work. (Courtesy Terramera)

Terramera Inc., an agricultural technology (agtech) company headquartered in Vancouver, is applying its specialties in chemistry and technology to develop sustainable farming solutions that maintain healthy soil.

Founded in 2010, Terramera sees “the opportunity to transform the way we grow food and the economics of agriculture,” Kim Haakstad, Terramera’s vice president of stakeholder relations and head of communications, told SustainableBiz.

The company foresees challenges with food availability and costs, worsened by the impacts of climate change, vanishing soil and climbing fertilizer costs that place financial strain on farmers. To address these problems, it is developing plant-based pesticides substantially more effective than synthetic versions, and a soil health analysis platform called enrichSoil.

Its efforts were recognized by Foresight Canada, which listed Terramera on the 2022 Foresight 50 list. Haakstad said the accolade brings more attention to the agtech field that can address problems for agriculture and the climate.

Actigate and its products

Terramera offers a line of products based around its Actigate platform, a molecular delivery system the company says boosts the effectiveness of the active ingredient in crop protection treatments. In the case of pesticides, it increases the effectiveness of cell penetration onto the target.

The company says it enables plant-based, organic pesticides and fertilizers to be 10 times more effective than their synthetic counterparts. This reduces the amount of pesticide and fertilizer applied on farm fields, which leads to diminished environmental harm from problems like fertilizer runoff and leaching toxins into the water and land.

“What we’re focused on is creating products that are as good or better than what you get from traditional, conventional pesticides, but making sure that they’re much more friendly to people and the planet,” Haakstad said.

Its latest product is Rango, an insecticide, fungicide and miticide. It is based on neem oil, a vegetable oil sourced from India that is a “a biologic solution from start to finish.” It can be used in organic agriculture and is listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute for use.

Terramera plans to offer Rango in the U.S. and Mexico this year. The company was fast-tracked through “rigorous” regulatory approvals in the U.S. and is seeing high demand in Mexico.

The glaring omission of its home Canadian market is due to obstacles faced by Canadian technology companies in getting their products onto the market, Haakstad said, such as a small market size relative to the U.S. and Mexico, and the high cost of bringing products to Canada.

enrichAg and enrichSoil

In January, Terramera formed subsidiary company enrichAg to concentrate on its software product enrichSoil.

Haakstad said it makes more sense from a customer and commercial angle to have two companies focused on their specialized products, rather than one company with different products, varying customer bases, lead times and sales pipelines.

enrichAg has around 40 employees and the company altogether has over 100.

Terramera believes “soil is absolutely fundamental to the health of our agriculture and therefore food systems. So we need to know more about our soil.”

enrichSoil is an application marketed to offer greater insights into soil chemistry and health.

First, the farmer sends details about the soil to enrichAg to assess for soil testing. Then the farmer orders a soil test from the app, which sends AI-powered recommendations for the sample point. The samples are sent to the company for analysis, and enrichAg visualizes the data across a heat map for understanding the contents of the soil.

It allows for rapid and accurate measurements of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and carbon to more precisely apply fertilizers. The benefits are supporting soil health and fostering its resiliency against climate change and extreme weather like droughts and floods.

Haakstad said the rising cost of fertilizers is a strain on farm finances. Optimizing the amount applied will improve their bottom line and result in less environmental impact.

Terramera’s funding and business prospects

The announcement of enrichAg was accompanied by a US$6 million investment led by San Francisco-based climate tech venture capital firm At One Ventures. The company will seek an additional US$9 million in funding during the first half of 2023.

Crunchbase pegs the company’s funding since September 2022 at US$97.7 million.

There are plans to commercialize enrichAg’s products and launch a beta test for the software. The company hopes to have a fully commercialized application in latter part of the year.

Terramera is still working on raising funds to reach full profitability in the “next couple of years.” Haakstad said it is still in the scale-up mode because green chemistry products require significant amounts of research time.

For now, Terramera’s primary focuses are on growing its customer base and sales.

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