Despite a global pandemic, agrifoodtech startups received $30.5 billion in investment in 2020 – a big increase from the $20.2 billion raised in 2019, according to AgFunder’s 2021 Agrifoodtech Investment Report. Previously emerging technology trends rapidly accelerated in the midst of increasing pressures on global food supply chains. These include everything from robotics and automation to fill the gap of human labor, to business models that enable producers to capture a higher percentage of dollars by selling their product directly to consumers.
Innovations and technologies are also tackling big impact issues such as food security and food waste. This is excellent news for investors, entrepreneurs, and growers who debated the viability of what was once a fledgling sector.
But everywhere we look, the gender inequity in the distribution of opportunities and resources is painfully obvious. Looking at the 10 largest agrifoodtech financings in 2020, 100% of the founders of these 10 companies are men. Of the top 20 financings, just two are known to have women co-founders.
In 2019, only 7% of investment money that went into agrifoodtech deals went to startups founded by women, according to a 2019 report — ‘Money Where Our Mouths Are’ (MWOMA) — released by AgFunder, Karen Karp & Partners, and The Counter in collaboration with S2G Ventures. The data aren’t yet available for 2020 – but watch this space!
The bottom line is that while the number of women founders, leaders, and innovators in the agrifoodtech sector — which extends into agbio and foodbio — continues to grow, the voices (and exposure) of women in the industry remain few and far between.
Challenge often creates opportunity and this is what a handful of women in agrifoodtech saw when they independently began collecting the names of women in the sector into a list simply because no such list existed. The women included agtech entrepreneurs, investors, and journalists who write about agrifoodtech. In 2020, they became aware of each others’ lists and decided to combine forces and merge them into a single directory.
Today, we’re launching the ‘Women in AgTech Directory’ – a searchable Airtable directory that lists the names and social media platforms of women founders and leaders in agrifoodtech in the US and internationally. This list is the result of a collaboration between women leaders in agtech including Connie Bowen (AgLaunch Initiative), Amy Wu (From Farms to Incubators), Allison Kopf (Artemis Ag), Pam Marrone (Marrone Bio Innovations), and Louisa Burwood-Taylor (AgFunder, AFN, MWOMA), and we hope that you’ll get involved, too.
Alison Kopf, the founder and CEO of Artemis Ag, says she was motivated to start a list in 2018 “because we have a stark vacancy of diverse voices on panels and events in our industry and wanted to elevate women to the table, especially when in ag — mostly corporate ag — there are already strong women voices at the top.”
“I want to see more women and black, indigenous, and other people of color starting companies in ag and in general,” she added.
Pam Marrone, the founder of Marrone Bio Innovations, a Nasdaq-listed company in the agbio space, had an Excel sheet where she’d been compiling whatever names she came across. Over the years it has evolved from handfuls to dozens.
“With more and more women jumping into agtech and starting companies, it is critical to track the progress and to network with each other and provide support and mentoring. In addition, this list can help those organizing conferences who are looking to diversify the speakers and panels,” Marrone said.
Louisa Burwood-Taylor says that, as a journalist, she wants to contribute to building a solid data set that connects agtech with gender to solutions to gender inequality. While there are articles, columns, and anecdotal evidence that shed light on this topic, unfortunately there is a lack of statistics.
“There’s so little data to prove how or why gender biases persist, so I’m keen to create a community where more can be shared, learned, and reported to help change that,” she said. Through MWOMA, Burwood-Taylor is working on bringing more data to light to help change investor and entrepreneur behaviors.
We hope that this directory can serve as a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs — in and outside of agtech — for growers and investors to connect with, learn from, hire, and invest in women in agtech.
We hope that conference organizers will find it and consider adding more women as speakers, that investors and VC firms will find the list and take a deep dive into the companies, and growers will connect with founders through this portal. Finally, we believe that by working as a collective we can create a paradigm shift – more women can enter this space, and will be encouraged to enter this space.