Monashees backs grain trading startup Tarken

Brazilian grain trading marketplace Tarken secured $3.5 million in a seed round, co-led by Monashees and Maya, to continue developing its technology that connects grain buyers and sellers and operates an artificial intelligence tool for commodity pricing.

Joining them was Gilgamesh Ventures and individual investors, including Kavak founder Carlos Garcia, Ualá founder Pierpaolo Barbieri, Zap VivaReal Group’s Brian Requarth and DoorDash’s Gokul Rajaram.

Luiz Tângari and Carlos Neto founded Tarken this year after working together in agriculture for the past eight years at Strider, a crop protection systems company they co-founded and later sold to Syngenta in 2018.

After integrating the company, they left and started Tarken, which is initially focused on corn, which Tângari estimates to be a $30 billion market. The National Supply Company (CONAB) from the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture estimated corn production in Brazil at 102.6 million metric tons for the 2020-21 growing year.

“The biggest problem in commodity trading is that it is not liquid,” he added. “If you are a farmer growing corn and soy, if you want to sell in a hurry you have to sell at a discount, or you are waiting for weeks for the right prices.”

He said the United States figured out price variations a decade ago. To give similar transparency to grain trading in Brazil, Tarken set up an AI tool that pulls in data from different sources and generates a price for every Brazilian city, something Tângari said was a mystery before. Buyers and sellers can search a map to see who is selling, at what price and the freight cost to get the product.

The farmer can communicate with the seller and the freight operators, which are vetted by Tarken, and execute the transaction right from the platform, which Tângari said “removes risk from the table.” A process that used to take about 12 weeks — between figuring out the prices, negotiations and product delivery — can now take just days, he added.

“This is a tool combined with education to draw scenarios for strategies to buy and sell,” Tângari added. “Currently, farmers have zero help, and we want to level that. We want to help market players be smarter, have smaller price variations and better liquidity. If we are successful, we will see chicken prices in the market go down 3%.”

Since Tarken launched four months ago, it has facilitated over 1,000 negotiations and has several hundred open bids for products. The number of negotiations is growing 50% per day, and Tângari expects to close the year with 10,000 registered customers.

Half of the new funding will go toward engineering to continue developing the product, including finishing out the AI tool. The other half will be invested in marketing for the marketplace to attract new customers, building content and education to help growers and buyers understand about trading and sales.

Tângari also notes that Tarken is on track to begin raising a Series A round and expects that to begin in six months.

Meanwhile, Marcelo Lima, partner at Monashees, said in a statement that he previously knew Tângari and Neto through an investment in Strider and is backing Tarken for its approach to the agricultural commodities market, which has not seen innovation in recent years.

“We strongly believe in the ability to use technology and data to aggregate supply and demand, improve the user experience and build a great marketplace in the region,” Lima said. “We’ve already seen this happening across multiple spaces and asset types. We are on the ideal timing and we have the perfect team to lead this movement in agribusiness.”