Agrifood technology VC Anterra Capital has extended its first fund by $75 million to $200 million in total, making it the largest single dedicated agtech fund in the world. The additional funds came from existing LPs, including Dutch global food and agriculture bank Rabobank, and Eight Roads, the proprietary capital arm of global investment house Fidelity International.
Managing partner Adam Anders told AgFunderNews that when discussing a second fund — the first fund originally closed in March 2016 — LPs suggested that Anders “not lose momentum” and offered to increase their allocations.
Anders said that the new funding comes with a widened view of what kind of investments a sector-specific VC should be making and where agrifood innovation will come from.
“We’re seeing increasingly exciting opportunities coming from proven areas of science and technology from outside the food and ag value chain,” said Anders.
He mentioned robotics, software and digital ag, as well as biotech as examples of where talent and innovation not strictly created for food and agriculture can be brought to bear.
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“It’s a maturing of Anterra. We’ve been extremely focused on developing our food and agriculture networks and relationships since 2009, and we now see the opportunity to increasingly bring non-agtech leaders into our sector,” he said. “Quite frankly, they’re coming anyway. Look at the activities of Microsoft, Amazon, Alibaba, IBM. We’re increasingly going to see those sort of companies playing a role and we’re going to encourage that.”
For agriculture biotech specifically, Anders said that the structure of the startup ecosystem is proceeding in line with how more mature sectors have developed, wherein innovation is all but officially externalized by corporates, who turn to entrepreneurs to bear the expense of developing new active ingredients, molecules, and treatments.
“We are leveraging the learnings from the biotech playbook so we can do it better in food and ag,” Anders explained.
Fintech as well, which is increasingly creeping into agtech startups’ offering, is a category of investment where solutions for growers can come from outside the agrifood industry, said Anders. “We’re going to see crossover into other verticals, for example, in agtech and fintech. Is the next agtech breakthrough on the finance side going to be a pure-play agriculture company or is it going to be something with expertise in general fintech?”
All this is to say that Anders sees a new role for the agrifood tech-focused VC.
“It’s not that we’re going to invest in non-agtech businesses and drag them to our sector,” he explains. “We don’t think the role of the specialist is to dominate the sector and own everything but to be the melting pot — to bring outside investors and experts in as well.”
Since extending the fund, Anterra has made three, previously unannounced, investments, one of which is a company that Anterra founded internally.
Anterra invested in Agriconomie, a French agribusiness marketplace for farmers and their suppliers with advanced logistics capabilities and a streamlined value chain that removes some of the mark-up for growers.
The firm made a follow-on investment in Voltea, a low-cost water technology capable of desalinating water in applications from the farm to consumers’ homes.
The startup founded by Anterra is Enko Chem, a crop protection chemicals startup. Enko Chem is helmed by Anterra venture partner Jacqueline Heard, with Tom Meade, formerly Dow AgroSciences global seeds discovery research leader, recently joining as CSO. The company is based in Boston, where Anterra opened a second office in 2016.
In addition to Anterra’s expressed evolution toward a more inclusive and expansive view of agtech, the firm’s new hires may be a good place to start making predictions about the company’s future. In the past year, the firm has hired Dan Harburg, a robotics expert with previously of the startup Soft Robotics along with Axel Wehr, who joins the firm from Bain Capital by way of Firestartr, a London based seed-stage investment firm. Wehr’s expertise is in software and e-commerce.
Anterra is also beefing up its animal agriculture bonafides, hiring Michelle Haven and Juergen Horn as special advisors. Haven comes from global animal health firm Zoetis while Juergen has held senior executive positions at Nexvet Biopharma (acquired by Zoetis in 2017), Novartis Animal Health (acquired by Elanco in 2015) and Elanco.