FreshDirect, one of the first online grocery delivery services ever, has raised $189 million in private equity capital, 14 years since launching. J.P. Morgan Asset Management led the round, with participation from direct secondary investment firm W Capital Partners and life insurance company AARP. FreshDirect still focuses on the East Coast in the US, serving folks in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, and New Jersey, but with this funding will look to expand into new markets.
The funding round coincides with the launch of a new mobile app, FoodKick, which promises consumers deliveries within an hour. This answers the growing call from consumers for on-demand services that other food e-commerce companies have struggled to provide. FreshDirect claims to have about $600 million in revenues and is in competition with AmazonFresh, that’s expanding across the country, and Instacart, which recently received investment from one of the retailers on its platform, Whole Foods. Instead of tapping into existing delivery infrastructure as other food e-commerce companies have done – and Amazon did with UPS – FreshDirect owns its own fleet of vans. The startup also has distribution centers to store produce ahead of time in contrast to Instacart’s personal shopper model.
FreshDirect has now raised a total of $280 million, mostly from private equity-type investors, according to CrunchBase. Instacart, by comparison, has raised $274 million since launching in 2012, from a range of high-profile venture capital firms including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Andreessen Horowitz, and Sequoia Capital. After 14 years in business on the East Coast, FreshDirect cannot be accused of expanding too quickly, but it will be interesting to see how it plays, bearing in mind the challenges other food e-commerce startups have faced in the expansion phase.
European startups lead the rest
AgroSavfe, a Belgium-based biopesticide startup, raised an $8.74 million Series B from a group of new and existing investors: growth equity investor Gimv, startup financier PMV, life sciences research institute VIB, Agri Investment Fund, life sciences fund Biovest, university venture fund Qbic, and agrochemical company Globachem. The startup’s technology centers around antibodies that it calls ‘Agribodies,’ which are protein binding domains derived from camelid antibodies targeting specific molecules. In the first instance, the company is testing its technology on fungi in fruits and vegetables.
Centaur Analytics, a Greek startup monitoring post-harvest waste, has raised a $1.3 million in seed funding from OurCrowd First, Piraeus Jeremie Technology Catalyst Fund and Avi Reichental, the founder of Xponentialworks former CEO of 3D Systems. The funding will be used to accelerate the commercialization of Centaur’s proprietary wireless sensors that monitor stored post-harvest products, feeding into the company’s software platform to provide cognitive analytics and prescriptions.
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Cannabi-Tech, an Israeli medical cannabis company, raised funding from the Hebrew University’s Agrinnovation Fund. The company, which originated from the Hebrew University’s faculty of agriculture, is developing an affordable and easy-to-use non-destructive method for the analysis, detection, and automated sorting of individual medical cannabis flowers.
Agrofy, an Argentinian agribusiness marketplace, closed its second round of seed funding on $1 million. Investors in the round included NXTP Labs, an accelerator seed fund. Agrofy did not participate directly in NXTP Labs’ program, the region’s first agtech accelerator because it was at a more advanced stage, but it did partake in some of the mentorship activities. The online marketplace taps a variety of production inputs, including machinery, inputs, infrastructure, tools, crops, cattle, insurance, loans, farmlands, jobs and vehicles. This round enables the company to reach next year´s Series A, when it expects to raise between $3 million and $5 million for the Brazil launch.
CMS Technology, a US food safety company developing antimicrobial solutions primarily for the poultry and produce industry, has raised over $5 million in Series A funding as part of a larger round led by institutional investment firm WP Global Partners.
Umi Kitchen, a New York home-cooked food delivery startup, closed a $1.4 million seed round with a long list of investors including boutique angel fund BoxGroup, SWTLF Ventures, early-stage SaaS and consumer internet investors Version One Ventures, Yale’s startup investment outfit YEI Innovation Fund, and 11 angel investors, including Barclays Investment Bank’s managing director Allen Cutler. The online app is designed for both aspiring cooks and hungry diners alike.
Paine & Partners, the agribusiness private equity fund, is set to acquire The Global ID Group, a food safety and food quality platform. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Headquartered in Fairfield, Iowa, with additional locations across Europe and South America, Global ID has more than 15k blue-chip customers across more than 100 countries.
Laguna Bay, an Australian farmland fund manager, has made the first investment from its recently-closed $280 million fund. Banongill Station is a 17k acre mixed farming property in Victoria, Australia, and the acquisition included 30k sheep, 2.4k Angus cattle, equipment, and 3.7k acres of winter cereal cropping land. Colliers International facilitated the sale from its private owners. The fund has a mandate to invest in a portfolio of agricultural assets in Australia and New Zealand and invests on behalf of local and offshore investors including North American pension and endowment funds.
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