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Sistema Top Manager Invests in an Agricultural Start-Up

Nikita Shashkin and partners will invest up to $10 million in digital services for agriculture.

Intterra develops and implements digital services for horticulture management. Its core customers are manufacturers of crop protection products, seeds and fertilizers who manage sales and provide consultation to their customers via Intterra’s SkyScout digital service. The system currently holds information about nearly 4 million ha of land in Russia.

According to Buzu and Mikhailov, the investments may reach $10 million: the total amount will depend on the company’s development and how much money it needs in the next two years.

$10 million invested in agriculture digitalization is a big deal, says Alexey Soloviev, owner of the A.Partners investment management company: if the company has set an investment ceiling, there should be a lower limit as well, and it typically is 10–20% of the total amount.

Buzu and Mikhailov are not disclosing their investors. According to SPARK-Interfax, they founded Intterra in 2016 and held equal shares in it until recently. Now 12.5% of shares belong to Ludany, a company owned by Nikita Shashkin, the investment director of AFK Sistema and co-owner of Aqua Invest (a private investor in the Yessentuki mineral water manufacturing company). Shashkin confirmed to Vedomosti that he made investments in Intterra and noted that it was a private investment not connected with either AFK Sistema or the mineral water bottling business. He believes that Intterra is an interesting project: agriculture has been developing rapidly in recent years, but it still lacks digitalization.

Other new co-owners of the company are the Cyprus-based Fabario Limited (its beneficiaries are unknown) with a 37.5% share and British Virgin Islands-based Geraly Investments (beneficiaries also unknown) with a share of 12.5%. Buzu’s share has decreased to 37.5%. Mikhailov is not listed as an owner, but he assured Vedomosti that he was still a co-owner, even though he did not reveal his share in the company.

Buzu promises that the investments will go to the company’s development: there are plans to introduce new digital services, for example, a marketplace for plant protection products, seeds and fertilizers. The company will also expand in the CIS and Eastern Europe, and offer financial services so that farmers will be able to get loans, insure crops, lease agricultural machinery, and more. These services are now being tested, and their commercial launch is planned for 2021.

Avgust, the biggest pesticide supplier, is a partner of Intterra, and considers its services to be among the most advanced, says Mikhail Danilov, Marketing and Sales Director at Avgust. The company is ready to consider other services offered by Intterra, including a marketplace (should it emerge). Online sales of plant protection products are not yet developed, says Danilov: they are mostly sold offline through a representative or distributor network. It will take some time to teach farmers to buy online, he warns.

General Director of the PhosAgro-Region mineral fertilizer distribution network Andrey Vovk says that his company is working with Intterra on a project for remote diagnostics and optimization of fertilizer use on customers’ fields.

The market for such services is still in its infancy, with a dozen small companies, says Soloviev. Danilov says these are mostly start-ups. Yet there are also international services: for example, Russia has Cropio, which was bought by the Swiss company Syngenta in 2019. Syngenta is a supplier of plant protection products, seeds, and more. According to the company, it handles data on about 5 million ha of agricultural land in Russia.

It makes sense for investors to join such projects for 5–7 years with a view to increasing the company’s revenue tenfold, says Soloviev. IT service penetration in the agriculture sector is low, but there is potential, and the market will see rapid growth in the coming years, concluded the expert.

Source: https://www.vedomosti.ru/business/articles/2020/04/02/827005-top-menedzher-sistemi?fbclid=IwAR1__spTfCNOInNzgSX2rAiErNRjLsvfC5yn_1JNPFXb0yaG2JHk5AiDYDk

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