Saudi sovereign agriculture company invests in UK agritech firm

Hummingbird Technologies will oversee 400,000 hectares of Salic Farmland

By Martin Coulter

Salic, Saudi Arabia’s agriculture and livestock investment company, has made its debut investment in the UK, leading a £7m funding round for British agritech company Hummingbird Technologies at a £30m valuation.

Hummingbird, founded in London in 2016, uses drones, artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to produce high-resolution maps that can help farmers forecast crop stress, spot disease and weeds and predict yields.

State-backed Salic, which is led by former Cofco International head Matthew Jansen, has hired Hummingbird to oversee 400,000 hectares of farmland in Australia and Ukraine.

The agreement follows last year’s talks between the UK and Saudi Arabia, when Prime Minister Theresa May and crown prince Mohammed bin Salman set out their ambition to build £65bn worth of trade and investment ties in the coming years.

Will Wells, Hummingbird chief executive, said the investment would fund a recruitment drive in the UK and push its international expansion. “As a machine learning business, our technology thrives on having more data to work with. Gaining access to Salic’s portfolio gives us an unprecedented opportunity to hone our capabilities even further.”

Hummingbird has 40 full-time employees in London, with satellite offices in Sao Paulo, Sydney, Lviv and Moscow. Downing Ventures, a leading UK-based venture capital fund, supported Hummingbird in a previous fundraising alongside the European Space Agency and Beeswax Dyson.

Downing is currently in talks to make a further investment in the company. Mr Jansen said: “We see Hummingbird as an attractive investment, from our global portfolio’s point of view, and see it as a means of driving innovative best practice adoption across our global farmland operation.”

This article has been amended to reflect that Downing Ventures has not reinvested in Hummingbird.

Article courtesy of FT.com, printed and online 23rd May 2019