WAGGA Wagga-based connectivity company Zetifi announced today it has raised $12 million through a Series A funding round, which will help ready the on-farm and remote area connectivity solutions before a mass-market launch.
GrainCorp and Telstra led investment in the funding round, alongside participation from existing investors including Cultiv8 Funds Management, GrainInnovate, and Artesian.
The company’s long-range wi-fi coverage extension products address a major barrier to the digitalisation of agriculture.
Zetifi CEO and founder Dan Winson said he hoped the system would unlock significant value from on-farm digital technologies in the years ahead.
“Our experiences over the last few years confirm that agriculture and the ag services sectors are eager to adopt digital technology and automation, as long they have a connectivity solution that supports it,” Mr Winson said.
He said the company put an early focus on the connectivity needs of agriculture and remote areas, and proximity to these customers from its regional base.
“We approached the problem from the farmers’ perspective, and the ability to be on-farm testing our ideas within a few minutes has accelerated the development of our products and technology.
“It’s allowed us to rapidly iterate and refine the scalable applications of our technology that we’ll now be preparing for the mass-market.
“This will involve doubling our software and product teams, scaling manufacturing to support demand in Australia, and taking on the US market within the next 12-18 months.”
Grain industry investment
GrainCorp CEO Robert Spurway said the investment in Zetifi was a fitting first step for the company’s $30M GrainCorp Ventures fund established in May.
“Connectivity is a key enabler for the advancement of modern agriculture,” Mr Spurway said.
“Australian growers are early adopters of technological innovation on farm, and it’s a credit to their resilient nature that they continue to lead the way on digital advancements.”
Mr Spurway said technologies like those created by Zetifi fitted within the goals of the GrainCorp Ventures initiative.
“GrainCorp Ventures focuses on identifying and accelerating the next generation of technologies that will keep growers ahead of the competition, and that’s what we see in Zetifi.
“Many of the people at GrainCorp also live and work alongside growers and our customers in regional communities and experience connectivity issues firsthand, so partnering with Zetifi will help to unlock significant value for the agricultural sector.”
The GrainInnovate Fund – a partnership between the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Artesian – has highlighted similar reasons for increasing its investment.
GRDC managing director Nigel Hart said connectivity remained a major issue in rural and regional Australia, and investment in new technology and solutions through companies like Zetifi was critical for the grains industry.
“GRDC is committed to investments that support or improve connectivity, because we know that precision agriculture is an integral part of grain farming and growers are utilising technology every day to improve on-farm production – from record keeping, to making informed, data driven decisions on things like Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) positioning, input calculations and seed distribution,” Mr Hart said.
“Increasing innovation depends on having a reliable connection on-farm so the work that companies such as Zetifi are doing is critical for the grains industry’s future.”
Alongside GrainCorp, Telstra’s early-stage investment arm, muru-D, has been the other lead investor in Zetifi’s finding rouhd.
Muru-D head of innovation and managing director Luke Harwood said the investment reflected Telstra’s commitment to supporting connectivity and innovation for the benefit of regional and remote communities.
“We’ve worked with Dan and the Zetifi team since they were part of our muru-D start-up accelerator program in 2019,” Mr Harwood said.
“We’re thrilled to see the progress they have made since then and the support we can provide as they scale.”
Mr Harwood said technology can play a greater part in increasing on-farm productivity and improving resilience to weather events.
“There is massive opportunity for technology to help Aussie farmers boost agricultural output and play a bigger part in Australia’s growing digital economy.
“Innovations like those developed by Zetifi and our other agtech investments that leverage our network and scale for the benefit of farmers, local jobs and local communities are great examples of the solutions we want to support.”
Early trial success
Cultiv8 Funds Management’s Jonathon Quigley said his confidence in the company has been bolstered by his own first-hand experience with Zetifi’s products.
“Dan participated in our SparkLabs Cultiv8 startup accelerator in 2019 and as a trial I had the very first ZetiRover installed in my ute,” Mr Quigley said.
“The device has allowed me to stay connected throughout my regional travels using it for video conferences, phone calls, emails, messages, and even delivering my primary work internet service during COVID lockdowns.”
In addition to investor funding, Zetifi has also received support from the New South Wales and Federal governments to develop, test and commercialise its technology.