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Data snapshot: Ag Biotechnology investment surges in Asia-Pacific as funding swims upstream

November 1, 2023

Data snapshot is a regular AgFunderNews feature in which we analyze agrifoodtech market investment data provided by our parent company, AgFunder.

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Despite an overall decline in funding to the region last year, some Asia-Pacific startups are seeing an increase in new VC capital.

Upstream startups — those working close to the farm or lab — bucked the overall downward trend to raise $3.2 billion in 2022, a 24% increase from 2021 numbers, according to the new Asia-Pacific Agrifood Investment report from AgFunder in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationOmnivore and AgriFutures Australia.

Ag Biotechnology — historically not a strong category in the region — best illustrates this shift.

The category surged from $142 million in 2021 to $813 million in 2022, making it the top-funded upstream category for the year in 2022. Deal count for Ag Biotechnology startups also rose, from 28 deals in 2021 to 49 deals in 2022.

Preliminary AgFunder data from 2023 suggests this upward momentum will continue: startups in the category raised more than $340 million in the first half of this year.

Why ag needs biotech

The AgFunder-defined Ag Biotechnology category includes on-farm inputs for crop and animal agriculture including genetics, microbiome, breeding and animal health.

These technologies are able to select and enhance desired traits such as drought tolerance or disease resistance. As the impacts of climate change advance, ag biotechnologies are seen as ways to boost plant and animal health as well as protect and expand food security.

Many countries in Asia-Pacific are especially susceptible to the impacts of climate change as well as food insecurity, issues which provide opportunities for startups in this category.

China and India led the region for Ag Biotechnology funding in 2022 ($633 million and $122 million, respectively), followed by Japan ($20 million), New Zealand ($14 million) and Hong Kong ($13 million).

Top deals for Ag Biotechnology

China’s Zhongxin Breeding, which deploys genomic selection and somatic cell cloning to develop new pig breeding lines, raised a jaw-dropping $327 million seed round in 2022 that was the year’s largest deal — not just for upstream companies but for all of Asia-Pacific agrifoodtech investment.

The second-biggest check ($100 million) went to Absolute Foods, India’s largest microbial and biomolecule discovery optimization platform.

Outside of those rounds, China and India more or less dominated the top funding for the region in 2022.

In 2023 so far, one of the most notable fundraises for Asia-Pacific comes from Australia soil-carbon startup startup Loam Bio, which raised a $73 million Series B from Lowercarbon Capital and others.

Meanwhile, China’s Bio-Engine, which makes serum-free media for human and animal cells, raised “over 300 million RMB” ($41 million) in May of this year.

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