Skip to main content
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
Get full digital access to globeandmail.com
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
// //

New funding values Semios in excess of $1-billion, chief executive officer Michael Gilbert said.

Handout

SemiosBio Technologies Inc. has raised $100-million to advance its plans to buy up other agriculture technology players globally.

The Vancouver company, which has announced three acquisitions since June – including last month’s nine-figure purchase of Australia’s Agworld Pty Ltd. – said the equity financing was led by its main outside shareholder, Morningside Group. The Boston private equity firm, controlled by billionaire brothers Gerald and Ronnie Chan, heirs to a Hong Kong property fortune, led Semios’s $102-million equity financing in early 2020. The new funding values Semios in excess of $1-billion, chief executive officer Michael Gilbert said in an interview.

It’s the 34th $100-million-plus venture capital funding of a Canadian company this year, obliterating the full-year record of 12 set in 2019, according to research firm Refinitiv.

Story continues below advertisement

Betting the farm: Vancouver’s Semios makes play to become global agtech giant with $100-million-plus acquisition

Semios, founded in 2010, is a specialist in “precision farming” technology that built its business in the past decade by combining artificial intelligence; wireless sensor technology; and a chemistry trick to prevent the spread of insects that damage high-value crops such as almonds, lemons, grapes, apples and pistachios. It is one of several Canadian companies, including Farmers Edge Inc. , and Telus Corp. , looking to digitize the global agriculture business, although Semios is believed to be the world’s largest independent player, up against chemical giants Monsanto Co. and DuPont de Nemours Inc., which have in-house tech units.

Semios’s signature offering is bug-control technology that doesn’t use insecticides to kill pests, but rather non-toxic synthesized chemicals that fool them into not reproducing. The Semios spray mimics pheromones, natural chemical signals that the insects send out to one another. Semios’s simulated pheromones are sprayed at intervals from canisters mounted in orchards and vineyards to confuse males, which fly into a fog of phony pheromones looking for females, and reach the end of their lifespan before propagating. Semios sells its systems on a subscription basis, meaning farmers don’t have to lay out big sums for technology they’ll have to replace at their own cost.

Mr. Gilbert said clients told him they were tired of dealing with multiple startups that help collect data and guide decisions on farm conditions. They encouraged him to buy other emerging players so they could deal with fewer suppliers.

He said Morningside’s funding last year was intended to bankroll acquisitions – and that the investor told him it would continue to finance Semios if he could prove out the strategy. “I knew I had to get a big meaningful one in order to trigger some follow-on capital to keep on growing,” Mr. Gilbert said.

The purchase of Agworld, a provider of enterprise resource planning software to farmers that generates about $10-million in annual revenue, “was enough to satisfy the Morningside team that we could raise more capital and keep growing and do more acquisitions,” he said. Semios announced two smaller deals in June, buying Altrac, a San Francisco-based maker of control systems that turn farm wind machines on and off, and Centricity of Wenatchee, Wash., which helps farmers manage data around compliance and traceability for crop inputs.

Morningside declined an interview request. The firm’s investment manager, Mick Sawka, said in a statement: “Morningside invests in companies committed to tackling pressing global challenges head on” including ensuring the sustainability of food production amid climate change. “Semios is a leader in helping farmers respond to this challenge and we’re proud to stand behind them.”

Mr. Gilbert said Semios is in talks with other potential targets; he expects his company to make another deal within six months. He said Semios is looking for acquisitions that would take it to new markets or broaden the scope of products and services sold to farmers. The CEO expects his 250-person company will roughly double annual revenues to US$100-million within two years, at which point it may go public.

Story continues below advertisement

“Semios is on fire,” said Leah Lawrence, CEO of federal agency Sustainable Development Technology Canada, which has provided $12-million in funding to Semios. “We’ve had 100 years of technology advancement and leadership in the agriculture space. Michael is capitalizing on that by taking advanced science and analytics and applying them to what has been Canada’s traditional strength in agricultural production for export.”

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies