In the U.S., agricultural farming remains one of the most notable industries in the country. Agricultural products contribute over $1 trillion to the overall U.S. economy while farms provide $1.3 billion itself. Likewise, America is home to some two million farms that comprise almost 400 million acres of land. But despite these figures, farms, and farmers specifically, face constant challenges. Most recently, the pandemic placed significant pressure on many farmers. And every year, extreme weather accounts for over 90% of crop losses. Such challenges are why many farms struggle to make it financially over time.
Understanding these challenges, U.S. policymakers often offer agricultural supports for farmers in the way of farm grants. But actually accessing and submitting grant applications is far from simple. Descriptions and qualifications are often confusing, and the time required to fill out grant applications is substantial. This creates a dilemma for many farmers as they must decide whether it’s best to farm or apply for funding. Unfortunately, many lack the time and/or insights to access these funds, which is why innovative agtech solutions are being proposed. In this regard, FarmRaise’s platform designed to help farmers receive grants is quite welcomed.
“I know getting into farming is no easy venture…The future of agriculture really is the young farmers of today and I’d hate to see attrition because of the pandemic when there are [grant] programs like this one that can hopefully make a difference.” – Robin Hackett, Microgrant Farm Program in Ohio
Modern Challenges for Farmers
When it comes to financial stability, the farming sector has always faced some difficulties. Changes related to the weather, economic seasons, and international supply and demand shifts are common threats. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic created new obstacles for many farms, especially those recently in business. As supply chain delays and unpredictability set in, many new farmers found themselves quite vulnerable. Without capital, infrastructure, or resources available, many new farmers decided to close up shop. This is why some states like Ohio are offering smaller farm grants to some recently established farms as a means of support.
Of course, the pandemic isn’t the only current issue that modern-days farms face. Many farms are under pressure to become more sustainable and climate friendly in their practices. Overall, statistics suggest that agricultural farming accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. But in actuality, this figure is much higher when land use and the short-term impacts of methane are considered. Many equate farming’s negative effect on the climate to approximate that of the transportation sector. As a result, increasing pressure from policymakers demand that farms reducing carbon emissions immediately. And this too has been tied to many farm grants.
The more short-term threats to U.S. farming thus appear to be related to more global events and developments. However, even larger threats loom over the industry in the long-term if public health issues are included. The nation faces its own set of health epidemics involving non-communicable diseases. Millions of Americans suffer from obesity, diabetes, and/or heart disease, and many hold farming practices accountable. Farming grants that prioritized the production of soy and corn for calorie production are believed to be responsible in part. Therefore, some advocate a shift in policies and farm grants to encourage a higher production of healthy foods as well. For farms to thrive in the future, each of these issues will need to be addressed.
“We’re seeing this keen focus on growing the size of the pie for conservation funding and it’s likely doubling in the years to come. Not only does [sustainable farming] incease farm profitability but it also sequesters carbon and can help to address climate change.” – Jayce Hafner, Cofounder of FarmRaise
Introducing FarmRaise’s Platform Solution
Several solutions are being pursued when it comes to the issues facing farmers today. Some strategies involve electric tractors as well as precision farming techniques. Others have suggested shifts toward indoor and vertical farming strategies. But none of these approach the current challenges from a financial perspective. In contrast, FarmRaise’s platform is solely focused on this area as it hopes to ease the burden on farms today. Specifically, FarmRaise’s platform makes accessing, applying and submitting farm grants simpler and more productive. And it does so without taking up unreasonable amounts of time that detracts from agricultural production.
FarmRaise has only been in existence for two years, but in that time, they have excelled. The startup has already raised over $7.2 million, thanks to participation in a California accelerator named Pear VC. In essence, FarmRaise’s platform takes granular data inputs about specific farms and populates applications for farm grants for farmers. The company has been so successful using this approach that it already boasts 10,000 farms in its clientele portfolio. Their rapid growth can be attributed not only to its exceptional algorithms. But FarmRaise’s platform has also thrived through major partnerships with farming giants Cargill and Corteva.
Feeling pressure to reduce their carbon emissions, these large agricultural corporations saw FarmRaise’s platform as a solution to their problem. They then turned several farms within their networks onto FarmRaise in an effort to access grant supports for sustainable agricultural practices. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for FarmRaise, given the fact that farms are being forced to adapt. With the help of FarmRaise’s platform, it now seems feasible that many farms can access funds needed. Such funds can pave the way to a more sustainable future for agriculture.
From Farm Grants to Broader Financial Services
FarmRaise’s platform has definitely made an impact by helping farms access farm grants more readily. But this represents only the beginning for the aggressive startup. The company soon plans to assist farmers improve their access to farm loans for land and equipment in coming years. Given that they will have collected necessary data for farm grants, this same data can be used for loan applications. The company then plans to move into tax planning areas subsequently as well. Of course, FarmRaise does not plan to provide these more targeted financial services themselves. Instead, they will serve as a referral network for farmers in exchange for finder’s fees. Regardless, it looks like the agricultural sector is ripe for these types of services. And FarmRaise plans to take full advantage of its opportunity.