DTN Set to Acquire Spensa, Continuing Trend of Farm Software Deals

Spensa Technologies, a startup that has developed sensors, software, and other products that give farmers insights about their operations, is now set to become part of global digital services company DTN.

Minneapolis-based DTN announced Tuesday that it has agreed to acquire Spensa, a Purdue University spinout that operates from West Lafayette, IN. The companies disclosed no financial terms of the deal, which still needs approval from Spensa shareholders.

Spensa was founded by Johnny Park, a computer engineering professor whose research led to the formation of the startup in 2009. Park had no background in agriculture, but he told Xconomy last year that his work shifted to agtech in 2008 after he received a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for a project that incorporates robotics and computers into farming. Part of that research led to Z-Trap 1, an automated, connected device that helps farmers manage crop pests. The company’s portfolio now includes various tools that collect crop information, analyze it, and spot problems more quickly.

DTN offers digital services and tools in agriculture, energy, financial analysis, and other industries. The company, which itself was acquired last year by Swiss company TBG for $900 million, says it has more than 600,000 customers worldwide.

In a prepared statement, DTN co-CEO Jerre Stead said that Spensa’s products, combined with the DTN’s expertise and customers in grain growing, will expand the larger company’s reach into new crops, such as the fruit and tree markets in California. DTN also plans to combine its weather technologies with Spensa’s capabilities to improve crop management.

Startups that provide analysis, insight, and other new capabilities to farmers are becoming hot acquisition targets for larger agricultural companies looking to beef up their own offerings. Last August, DowDuPont (NYSE: DWDP) shelled out $300 million to acquire San Francisco farm management software startup Granular to speed up its “digital strategy.” A month later, Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE) paid $305 million to acquire Sunnyvale, CA-based machine learning and robotics startup Blue River Technology.

The trend has continued through this year. Last month, Syngenta acquired Raleigh, NC-based FarmShots, a startup whose technology analyzes satellite images to provide farmers with information that they can use make decisions, such as where to apply fertilizer. Syngenta said it would integrate the FarmShots technology into its own farm software system.

Photo by Flickr user Zoltan Voros via a Creative Commons license.

Frank Vinluan is editor of Xconomy Raleigh-Durham, based in Research Triangle Park. You can reach him at fvinluan [at] xconomy.com Follow @frankvinluan

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