Monsanto Buys Weather Big Data Company Climate Corporation For Around $1.1B

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Today’s big acquisition is a huge agritech exit: Biotech company Monsanto has bought Climate Corporation for approximately $1.1 billion. While the Monsanto press release says $930 million, we’re hearing from investors that the actual price is past the $1 billion mark, because part of the all-cash deal will be paid out over time as an employee retention plan.

Climate Corporation is backed by Founders FundKhoslaGoogle Ventures, NEA, Index Ventures and Atomico. The company uses machine learning to predict the weather and other essential elements for agribusiness.

Monsanto focuses on providing seeds, biotechnology traits and crop production products for farmers around the world. The acquired company will continue to operate as the Climate Corporation, and Monsanto will leverage its big data expertise to optimize farming globally.

This is a pretty cunning move. It comes on the same day that Monsanto — one of the world’s largest argibusiness companies — reported a larger-than-expected, increased 4th quarter loss, of $249 million, or $0.47 per share.

And Monsanto is positioning this acquisition as part of a longer-term recovery plan, hoping that Climate Corporation’s climate change monitoring technology will help Monsanto manage future risk better. Monsanto has weathered (pun intended) a lot of bad PR over the years around issues like genetic modification and the general trammelling of smaller agricultural enterprises, so it will be interesting to see how Climate Corporation fits into that mix.

Below is my invite to the media call at 8am, and here is a link to the press release on the Monsanto home page.

Good morning,

Monsanto just announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire The Climate Corporation for $930M. The full press release and supporting information is available on http://www.monsanto.com.

The acquisition will combine The Climate Corporation’s expertise in agriculture analytics and risk-management with Monsanto’s R&D capabilities, and will provide farmers access to more information about the many factors that affect the success of their crops.

We would like to invite you to join us later this morning for a call related to today’s announcement. We’ll use this call to provide details about the announcement and then have an opportunity to take some of your questions.

David Friedberg, chief executive officer of The Climate Corporation and Monsanto’s executive vice president of global strategy, Kerry Preete will provide an overview of the announcement.

The COO of Climate Corporation, Greg Smirin, tells me that the acquisition is an ideal fit for both companies: “As we all know, the weather is becoming more extreme. We found that we had kindred spirits with the folks at Monsanto; The data science that we have developed can be applied to improve seed production immensely.”

Climate Corporation CEO David Friedberg comes from an interesting tech background. He is an ex-Googler, where he served as one of its first corporate development execs. (One of the deals he tried to do while there was to convince Google to buy Skype, according to Index’s Neil Rimer, who wrote the first VC check for Climate Corporation’s $300,000 seed round. Obviously the Skype deal never happened, but Friedberg ushered in a number of other biggies for Google nevertheless.)

I had the chance to interview Monsanto VP of Global Strategy Kerry Preete and Friedberg this morning about the acquisition, and Monsanto’s bad rep. For an interview about farm tech, it’s worth a watch.

And, here’s an interview with Friedberg from last year when the startup picked up $50 million:

Additional reporting by Ingrid Lunden. This article updated to reflect the fact that Monsanto is large, but not the largest agribusiness company by revenue.