There are point solutions and then there are solutions that represent a tide shift in an industry. Leaf is a digital infrastructure company that has developed a standardized set of APIs to support software and application developers at companies across the agricultural industry. Leaf’s unified farm data solution has the potential to overcome the data silos and proprietary formats that have been one of the main barriers to digitization in the agricultural industry. We are excited to announce our recent investment in Leaf and to work with them to empower innovators across the agricultural supply chain to create digital solutions that can improve the sustainability, efficiency and profitability of their businesses.
Data Without Standardization
Agriculture is one of the least digitized sectors of the US economy. A recent Trust in Food survey of US farmers found that nearly a third of respondents primarily store and manage their data on paper records and more than half do not rely on farm-level data software. Digital agriculture tools have the potential to support great strides in sustainability, efficiency and profit margins in the industry. But while investments and activity in agricultural technology have exploded over the past five years, adoption has still been slow with one of the main sticking points being the lack of interoperability between systems.
The agricultural industry’s default model is to develop and market software and devices in proprietary formats. This means that all these tools and programs operate in their own ecosystems and utilize different data formats and languages. As a result, the industry is full of single point solutions that get data elements from point A to point B with no standardized way to exchange data between them and no way to create consensus on the shared meaning of that data.
This lack of interoperability creates barriers to efficiency in utilizing software from multiple providers and has significantly limited the choices farmers have in adopting new technologies. Farmers need to spend time and resources getting these systems to talk to each other and manually inputting data for each application which also increases the likelihood of human error. These data silos limit innovation and efficiency throughout the supply chain and hinder a farmers ability to achieve their objectives for profitability, sustainability, yield, food safety and resilience. This also means that many digital solutions are less appealing for farmers since the adoption value is not clear.
Joining the API Movement
Leaf’s founders saw that for teams of all sizes in the food and agriculture industry, the technical complexity of ingesting, translating, standardizing, organizing and maintaining data from multiple sources added years of work for development teams and delayed or canceled product plans. They also saw these companies were using customer farm data and services to build new categories of products that demanded a more robust data infrastructure than the integrations the companies were already struggling to build.
For two systems to interoperate they have to be able to exchange data with one another and interpret and present that data in a way that can be understood by each system. This requires that the physical infrastructure be in place to transport data between systems and that there are common data structures and formats. Language frameworks are also needed to establish a shared meaning of that data so the system can understand the information being exchanged. This is where APIs come in. An API is essentially a programmatic way to access an app and a method to allow apps to talk to each other in the background.
While APIs have been around for nearly 20 years it is only in the past few years that the concept of “API first” has gained traction with software teams. This has created a new wave of “API first” companies distributing software in the form of APIs which empowers developers to add external products to their own applications and improve their functionality without building out each new feature independently. This approach has greatly enhanced innovation and product experience across industries since it frees up developers from building all the functionality and services themselves and allows for a network of compatible solutions that delivers much more valuable returns to users.
A Game Changer for the Industry
Leaf’s API is essentially creating infrastructure to enable anyone to seamlessly transfer data between hundreds of agricultural data sources through one integration. It does this by abstracting and standardizing data across sources such as farm machinery and sensors so customers can focus on building more value with farm data without having to worry about building data standardization and interpretation tools in house. The API is fully self-service, meaning it is easy for developers to work with and virtually anyone can sign up for credentials through Leaf’s website and start using the APIs with the guidance of video tutorials. By eliminating what used to be months to years of redundant work for software companies, Leaf is enabling them to focus on launching and scaling their products, significantly expediting this process.
Software developers are using Leaf’s API to build and scale a wide range of products including farm management software, lending products outcome-based financing, carbon removal marketplaces, agronomic recommendations, food traceability applications, land and input marketplaces, equipment maintenance forecasting and more. Leaf’s API network supports all major agricultural brands and powers many of the leading food and agtech products and today Leaf works with companies representing over 200M acres.
For example, Leaf is working with Bayer to help them onboard partners faster and more efficiently to Climate Fieldview, a software which helps growers make data driven decisions by allowing them to collect, store and analyze their data in one place. As Bayer started building the ecosystem, it became clear they were spending too much time on the logistics of connecting with their API partners. Leaf is now making it easy for developers to connect with Fieldview and the difference in speed of integration is now weeks as opposed to the months or even years it took previously. Today Bayer partners are working with Leaf to launch production-ready FieldView integrations in just a few weeks.
Leaf is also helping companies like Grower’s Edge provide better services to farmers. Grower’s Edge is a fintech company with a suite of data-driven solutions to introduce growers to new products and practices that can improve their operations, mitigate risk and help them access capital. The company has a broad customer base and needs to be compatible with a wide range of agronomic data for their data scientists and engineers to then analyze. But deciphering data integrations on a case by case basis is an incredibly time and resource intensive effort. Grower’s Edge collaborated with Leaf for data analysis and integration to enable them to access standardized data from multiple platforms through one integration, making the company better able to serve their customers, increase API integrations, build products ahead of schedule and reduce data integration engineering costs.
The vision for Leaf is to improve the value of digital ag by empowering agtech developers at the ground level to build these products. Farmers can use Leaf’s digital infrastructure to improve their sustainability, productivity and profit, supply chain companies can improve traceability and food retailers can provide enhanced convenience and cater to shifting dietary preferences.
“Before Leaf, large and well-funded development teams would struggle for years to overcome inconsistent data access, formats, translation, organization, and integrations. Now these same companies and teams of all sizes use Leaf to focus on building new value for their customers instead of maintaining redundant backend infrastructure.”
- G. Bailey Stockdale, CEO and Co-founder of Leaf
Scaling Digital Ag Solutions
The digital agriculture market size is expected to reach $10.5 billion by 2027 with a CAGR of 10.9 percent between 2021 and 2027. By providing the infrastructure to overcome the barrier of building products with disconnected farm data, Leaf is enabling the scalability of digital agriculture solutions.
We recently led Leaf’s $5 million seed round with participation from all existing investors including Cultivian, Radicle, and SP Ventures. Leaf plans to use the seed funding to grow its commercial, customer success, and development teams globally, add support for new data types and launch new higher level services like Field Operations, a service that allows developers to work with full Field Operation datasets instead of fragmented machine data files.
S2G’s investment in Leaf supports its continued growth and success in being a catalyst for agtech development overall. Farm data is only useful when it can be easily read and used. Leaf is rewriting the rules when it comes to building with farm data and we’re excited to support them.
Welcome Leaf to the S2G portfolio community! We look forward to working with you to drive digitization in agriculture by enabling the integration of data sources, and to empower software developers to solve some of the world’s most valuable health, economic and environmental challenges.