Nofence expands internationally with digital fence solution – brings on board Momentum and Norselab in growth round
Nofence has worked intensively with product development over the past year and is ready for a leap into the growth phase. With a world-leading, digital fence solution and 1,700 enthusiastic customers, the Norwegian technology scaleup will now take on large, European markets. Investment funds Momentum and Norselab, both focusing on sustainable companies heading into the growth phase, were among new investors in the round. Nofence now have the financial muscles they need to scale up their team and finance international expansion.
- The road has not been pothole-free, admits Nofence CEO, Marianne Sundsbø. While founder Oscar Hovde Berntsen started shaping the idea of a digital fence long before digitalization became a buzzword, Nofence was founded only in 2011. After many years focusing on product development and pilot projects, the end of 2017 brought the decisive acceptance for the use of the Nofence collar on goats by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. Now, Nofence collars are also available for sheep and cattle.
30 million hours
Customers from all over the world have shown keen interest in trying the solution. The Nofence collar counts over 30 million hours of use on goats, sheep and cattle. This has provided valuable learning that they have brought into product development and continuous improvement. Nofence is the first in the world to get a virtual fence on the market, but more are following in their footsteps.
- Our solution is specially designed to take full advantage of available pasture lands. By using the Nofence collar, farmers can let their animals graze on areas that were previously inaccessible. Setting up physical fences in forest areas and other outfields is costly and time-consuming. By eliminating this barrier to outfield grazing, we unlock many benefits within operations, cultural landscape, the environment and animal welfare, Sundsbø explains.
Pastures are crucial for sustainable livestock production
When it comes to sustainability, she believes that the company has a strong standing. It is better for the environment to let livestock graze, than to feed them with concentrates; through improved utilization of pastureland and potential extension of the grazing season, Nofence enables more efficient use of resources. Sundsbø also refers to research that indicates up to 40% higher yields in meat production per area through optimal grazing rotation.
- There is a huge, international demand for more sustainable food production that also respects the welfare of animals, says Sundsbø. She explains that this megatrend has been growing over time and is now peaking. Nofence makes it possible for farmers to meet customers' expectations while simplifying everyday farm operations and gaining full control of both the livestock and the resource utilization.
Confident despite competition
- There is no doubt that the market needs this. The fact that several companies abroad are trying to develop similar solutions is merely a sign that we are meeting a real demand. However, our advantage is that we are the first movers and have the opportunity to take early positions in the markets, Sundsbø states. A key part of the strategy has been to establish ties with leading professional environments in key markets. - This is how we build trust with both the authorities and future customers, she explains.
The Batnfjordsøra-based company launched the first versions of their product very early to maximize learning from customer experiences. Getting insights from paying customers has enabled them to work purposefully on improving all aspects of the product. Recently, machine learning and sensors have been implemented to reduce the power consumption of the collars; now the solar panels are sufficient to cover power demand throughout the entire grazing season.
Ready for international scaling and growth
Through these insight-based improvements, Nofence has managed to eliminate risks associated with both technology and product quality. Now, they are ready for rapid growth in important European agricultural countries such as England, Ireland and France, before they consider expansion to markets in the rest of the world. In the period ahead, Nofence will therefore focus on scaling up the team, and they are now actively recruiting for a large number of positions in commercial functions, hardware and software development, supply chain and finance.
Backed by Momentum and Norselab
The planned expansion is financed by a recent funding round led by Bergen-based Momentum and the newly established growth fund Norselab.
- The Nofence team is both professionally solid and visionary. They have already achieved a lot, and we believe in their ambitions to influence global agriculture in a more sustainable and profitable direction. That combination fits perfectly with our investment strategy, says Hilde Støle Pettersen in Momentum. - This is the first investment in our new fund, and an investment we are proud of.
At Norselab, partner Ivar Kroghrud is just as enthusiastic.
- Nofence is a company we have had on our radar for a while. They have the potential to fundamentally change how we utilize grazing resources globally and enable more sustainable meat production. Their business idea is supported by research that documents a fantastic potential with regards to the environment.
- In addition, Nofence has an impressive team that is well equipped for the exciting but demanding journey they are embarking on. For Norselab, it is an excellent example of the kind companies we seek to invest in; they are both industry-related, data-driven and will clearly contribute positively to the Sustainable Development Goals, he adds.
- Together with our new investors, our connected hardware can become commonplace for grazing livestock all over the world. There will be a lot of data! This will empower our team of developers to make a difference. I'm really looking forward to it, says founder Oscar Hovde Berntsen.
Nofence is the first company in the world to develop and sell digital fences for livestock. By replacing the need for physical fences both infield and outfield, they make it easy for farmers to keep livestock on pastures. The technology can help reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture through increased utilization of available pastureland, optimization of grazing rotation and an extension of the grazing season.
The solution consists of a GPS collar and an app where farmers draw their digital fences and follow the movements of the grazing livestock on their smartphones.
The company has 16 employees and a turnover of NOK 26 million in 2020. Nofence is currently in use among 1700 farmers in Norway, as well as selected customers in European countries. From 2021, Nofence will invest in the UK and plan to expand to other major agricultural markets.