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Descartes Labs raises another $20 million

IMAGE COURTESY DESCARTES LABS
The Descartes Labs team photographed last year against the fall colors in the forest outside of Taos. The Santa Fe-based analytics firm just landed another 20 million in venture capital.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Santa Fe-based Data analytics firm Descartes Labs has raised another $20 million in venture capital, the company reported on Friday.

The latest investment, led by Union Grove Venture Partners, makes a total of nearly $60 million in private equity raised by the firm since launching in 2015. The new round included additional commitments from some existing investors, such as March Capital Partners and Crosslink Capital.

The company has attracted broad national and international attention through its use of advanced image-recognition software originally developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory that sifts through reams of data from satellites and other sources to rapidly analyze global trends in almost any field. It uses a cloud-based supercomputer to analyze that information and provide advanced insight into everything from energy and agriculture to weather patterns and large-scale industry operations across the globe.

The latest investment provides capital to expand operations, said CEO Mark Johnson.

“It’s growth capital to continue building strategies and products, hire more people, and grow our customer base,” Johnson told the Journal. “We’re growing very quickly.”

The company currently employs 110 people, most of them at its headquarters at the Santa Fe Railyards.

“We have about a dozen positions open now, and we just hired a new chief financial officer,” Johnson said. “We’re actively building out our team.”

Apart from its base in New Mexico, the company employs people at various sites across the U.S. and in other countries. It held an annual meeting of all employees last week in Santa Fe.

“Our people came from all over the country, from as far away as Alaska and Washington, D.C.,” Johnson said. “It was a great time to announce the new round of funding, with everybody here in New Mexico.”

Descartes Labs’ image recognition software has a huge range of capabilities that can be applied across many industries and social issues.

Since launching, it’s focused a lot on agriculture. Its system can pinpoint and track crop growth while analyzing weather patterns and global supply chains to predict harvests or markets faster and with greater accuracy than today’s government industry reports, according to the company. That’s generated some lucrative contracts.

But it’s aggressively expanding its markets and customer base in both the government and private sectors. It’s launched a number of ongoing monitoring and analysis projects, for example, to provide critical information to government entities.

Among other things, its helping to:

n dDetect wildfires and anticipate their spread, providing early warnings like weather alerts for firefighting agencies;

n Process satellite imagery of the Middle East and North Africa to pinpoint agricultural fields and boost food security;

n Assist the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in creating a geospatial cloud analytics program to better monitor things like illegal fishing or activities at oil and gas production sites.

The company also announced in September that it will use its system to help New Mexico monitor and manage methane emissions in the Permian Basin.

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