Former Rev1 Ventures senior vice president Bob Wiggins is leading the startup.
A new agriculture software venture is taking advantage of Ohio State University roots and Columbus’ fertile tech startup fields to grow from seed stage and aim at global ag markets.
RedBud Software was originally conceived of and produced by Joan Leonard, then the manager of OSU’s biological sciences greenhouses. Leonard managed several facilities filled with growing experiments from many researchers and needed a better way than spreadsheets to manage pest control products and track other inputs that needed to be carefully notated for every plant.
“Necessity is the mother of invention, and she realized she needed a different way,” says Bob Wiggins, CEO of Redbud. OSU contracted with a local software development firm for the build-out of the product to Leonard’s specs, and a software package was born.Stay up to date with the region’s movers and shakers, top employers, philanthropic causes, real estate developments and thriving creative and startup scenes. Subscribe to Columbus CEO’s weekly newsletter.
OSU’s Technology Commercialization Office saw potential, did a couple of pilots within other Ohio State programs and by the beginning of 2019 the company was spun off.
Wiggins says the company has raised in the mid-hundreds of thousands of dollars in its first round of fundraising. OSU is still a significant shareholder, and so are Rev1 Ventures and Wiggins.
Rev1 originally brought Wiggins, a longtime West Coast tech CEO, to town. He served as a senior vice president there from March 2017 until RedBud needed a CEO. Wiggins was excited enough about its prospects that he jumped in with both feet.
He says Redbud fills a wide-open niche in the indoor or controlled environment agriculture industry. He says there are several products that help growers keep track of financials, but none on the ground-level operational side of the business.
“In that business,” Wiggins says, “you need to have a way to track not just what works but also to fulfill Environmental Protection Agency requirements in terms of recording what you’re using.
“If you think about a corporate research greenhouse planning products out 10 years, any one thing you’re testing could be a multi-hundred-million dollar product.”
That is a nice niche to fill in a $25 billion industry. Wiggins says the amount of money the industry spends on technology alone is projected to grow to $11 billion in the United States by 2022.
Today, the software records pest management, maintenance operations, task assignment and space allocation, but Wiggins says future plans include data management from greenhouse control systems such as lighting levels, irrigation, humidity and more.
RedBud already has a running start with customers on the research side, including beta testers at Yale University and Colorado State University and corporate research greenhouse operations including Corteva Agriscience and Mexican food grower Karma Verde Fresh.
Currently the largest indoor growers produce ornamental plants, but Wiggins sees a hot future in the cannabis industry. RedBud already has customers in Canada in that market.
“We believe if we can execute the way we’d like to, in a way we think possible, in five years we should be significantly north of $15 million in annual revenue,” Wiggins says.