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Rockstart AgriFood Blog #1
AgriFood investment trends 2018

Global investments in AgriFood tech continue to rise. The first half of 2017 saw $4.4 billion VC investment into the space, covering all segments from farm to fork. Highlights include a foodtech unicorn, corporate confidence and key AgriFood tech trends emerging… read on!

We’ll take a quick look at pertinent data contained in the H1’2017 investment report by AgFunder* and identify some of the hottest areas to watch in 2018.

AgriFood Investment Trends — General

BIG DEALS are pushing investments up. Despite a 6 percent increase in overall investment year on year, the actual number of deals decreased by 27 percent. Much of the deal decline happened at seed stage where there was a 37 percent decrease in the number of VC investment deals. This can be attributed in part because startups are maturing in size, partly due to investor fatigue at “me-too” companies, and is also in line with overall decrease in seed stage deals by VCs.

The fact that VCs are returning to later stages suggests that there is a need for specialist early stage investors and a better integration of professional investors from the early stage to capitalize on the best early-stage startups.

CORPORATE ACTIVITY is continuing to pick up, with global corporate investment seeing an all time high in H1’2017, accounting for 15 percent of all investments—agrifood corporate contributions continue to climb, dedicating 2 percent to the overall total (KPMG Venture Pulse Report). Some high-profile acquisitions were made in summer, with John Deere acquiring robotics startup Blue River Technologies ($305 million) and DowDuPont acquiring Farm ERP startup Granular ($300 million).

AgriFood Investment Trends — Outliers

Venture capital is driven by outliers, and so it is with AgriFood tech investments. Before going into the finer details of some investment themes from the industry, here are three such outliers:

AgriFood Investment Trends — Themes

EMERGING THEMES

  1. Agribusiness marketplaces account for 7 percent of total AgriFood VC funding, a 2,488 percent increase from 2016. Startups in this space are looking to disrupt the traditional relationship-based supplies and machinery procurement process, as well as changing how farmers market and sell their produce by removing “middle men.” (Rockstart AgriFood’s category “Improving practices and processes for better connectivity” applies here.)
  2. Midstream technologies account for 4 percent of overall VC funding, an increase of 21 percent YoY. Midstream technologies refer to anything after the farm gate, but before the fork and are often driven by consumer demand, for example improved traceability. (Rockstart AgriFood’s category “Driving Sustainability and Transparency” applies here.)
  3. Innovative Food, which includes themes like alternative proteins, grew by category by 60 percent to 4 percent of overall VC funding. (Rockstart AgriFood’s category “Stopping food waste” applies here).

STABILIZING THEMES

  1. Thanks to the Ele.me deal, restaurant marketplaces account for an outsized portion of total funding (37 percent, 15 percent ex-outlier). However, without this outlier, funding in the category fell by 53 percent. It is reasonable to expect a further decline in 2018.
  2. Much like restaurant marketplaces, eGrocery investment grew on the back of Instacart’s $400 million Series D round; the category would have shrunk by 31 percent otherwise to $388 million.

MATURING THEMES

  1. Other categories experienced a drop in funding: Ag biotech (-6 percent); Bioenergy & Biomaterials (-53 percent); Farm management software; Sensing & IoT (-16 percent), In-store retail tech (-72 percent); Farm robotics, mechanization & equipment (-13 percent).

Overall, AgriFood tech experienced a confident H1’2017, returning to the pre-2016 investment growth curve. It is also worth noting that the USA’s contribution to early-stage startups slipped by 2 percent since H2’2016 due to increases in other countries, predominantly Germany, France, Australia, Ireland, the UK, and Canada.

Rockstart AgriFood Investment Focus 2018

We at Rockstart AgriFood view the AgriFood supply system holistically, rather than as a segmented chain. This is of particular advantage considering that startups are increasingly addressing more than one phase of the chain with their solution. As supply chains get shorter, the need to consider the industry as one whole gets stronger.

This holistic focus allows us to focus on challenges for startups to solve as part of our investment scouting strategy:

Rockstart AgriFood is confident with the investment focus for 2018. Working with strong partners, like AgFunder, ensures that we can react ahead of the crowd and play the role of the early-stage experts when it comes to startups scouting and selection.

 

*We are proud to call AgFunder a partner of Rockstart AgriFood, and to welcome co-founder Michael Dean to the AgriFood Advisory Board.