Alternative protein gets plenty of limelight in the agri-foodtech arena nowadays. But there are startups from outside the “fake meat” craze that are having just as big an impact on the global ecosystem.
Agribusiness marketplaces are one such category, seeking to bring greater efficiency to the agrifood supply chain both upstream and downstream of the farmer.
They connect growers and livestock rearers with resources like machinery, financing, and agronomic support at one end, and marketing and sales at the other.
Some focus on specific areas, such as insurance or supplying restaurants. Others seek to provide a holistic, centralised service incorporating pretty much everything from buying seeds and offering cash advances to farmers during the growing season, to managing distribution and logistics once their produce is ready to go to market.
According to AgFunder’s Agri-FoodTech Funding Report 2019, startups in this category pulled in $786 million of funding last year – or 4% of total investment in the agri-foodtech space – across 104 deals, with a median deal size of $1.5 million.
Much of that funding went to Asian startups, underlining the importance that tech-driven ag marketplaces are playing in the region. Of the top 20 investments, six went to Chinese companies, with two going to Indian startups and one to a Japanese outfit.
Here are the top 20 ag marketplace fundings of 2019, in descending order from the largest recorded round according to AgFunder data (note that the second-largest deal, worth $150 million, involved an undisclosed startup and is not listed here):
- ProducePay – Los Angeles-based ProducePay secured $205 million in debt financing from TCM Capital and CoVenture to fund the cash advances it offers to farmers who sell their produce through its marketplace. It claims that $1.5 billion worth of produce has been traded via its platform between its launch in 2015 and 2019, with half of that volume coming last year.
- Ninjacart – Connecting farmers directly with restaurants and retailers to sell their fruit and veg, India’s Ninjacart raised $100 million in Series C funding from investors including Tiger Global, Tanglin Venture Partners, and Trifecta Capital Advisors in June.
- Xinliangji – Chinese trio Eastern Bell Venture Capital, Frees Fund, and Sino-Ocean Capital backed this aquaculture-focused marketplace to the tune of $44 million in its July Series B round.
- Agrostar – Based in the western Indian city of Pune, Agrostar makes and sells organic fertilisers. It collects and analyses agronomic data from its farmer customers, enabling it to provide after-sale care and real-time solutions. Bertelsmann India Investments led the startup’s $27 million Series C raise in March, with participation from Aavishkaar Venture Capital, Accel, and Chiratae Ventures.
- Agrofy – This Argentinian marketplace runs the gamut, helping farmers find machinery, finance, livestock, insurance, and jobs. SP Ventures, Acre Capital, and Fall Line Capital pumped $23 million into its December Series B funding, in the largest round yet raised by a Latin American agritech startup.
- Bushel – Hailing from Fargo in the US, Bushel’s app connects cereal growers directly to grain elevators, collecting data along the way to make the bidding process more efficient. It raised $20 million in Series B funding from Continental Grain Company, Germin8 Ventures, and Lewis & Clark Ventures in December.
- Qdama – Guangzhou, China-based Qdama works with farmers to sell fresh meat products directly to consumers. It counts Chinese players Co-Stone Venture Capital, Lighthouse Capital Management, and Taikang Asset among its investors.
- Yimutian – This Chinese ecommerce platform focuses on serving the agricultural business-to-business segment. Sequoia Capital, China Growth Capital, and e-grocery giant Yiguo joined its January Series C round.
- Dafengshou – Beijing-based Dafengshou sells a wide range of supplies to farmers, from fertilisers and tools to educational books. China Growth Capital was the sole disclosed investor in its Series C round last March.
- Wefarm – [Disclosure: AFN’s parent company AgFunder is an investor in Wefarm.] This UK startup claims to be the world’s largest farmer-to-farmer network, enabling collective idea sharing and problem solving via SMS. It scored $13 million in an October Series A round co-led by June Fund and True Ventures.
- Grainpulse – Uganda’s Grainpulse secured $11 million from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation in December. Its platform connects farmers with fertiliser vendors and produce markets.
- Frubana – Based in Bogota, Colombia, this Y Combinator-backed marketplace links farmers directly to restaurants and small retailers in order to sell produce without other intermediaries.
- Just Free – This startup sources produce to develop ‘personalised brand’ products for China’s growing population of affluent consumers. It raised $8.7 million last year.
- Tillable – Chicago-based Tillable provides a digital platform for landowners to rent out their real estate to crop growers. First Round Capital, Serra Ventures, and Service Provider Capital were among the investors to participate in its Series A round last year.
- Sorabito – Japan’s Sorabito raised $8.2 million from big corporate backers Itochu Construction Machinery and Sumitomo Corporation in May. It’s an ecommerce portal for used heavy machinery such as construction and earthmoving equipment.
- ProcSea – Swiss seafood marketplace ProcSea secured $7.2 million in an October Series A round led by France’s Serena Capital. It specialises in sourcing traceable farmed and wild seafood and selling it on to restaurants and retailers.
- Guoquan Shihui – This Shanghai-based startup has focused on a quintessentially Chinese food vertical. It provides B2B and B2C sales channels for hotpot-related supplies, including food and equipment. It operates both an online platform and physical stores, and raised $7.1 million from Buhuo Ventures and Sanquan Foods in October.
- MaxAB – Clinching $6.2 million in a September seed round involving 500 Startups, this ecommerce player claims to be Egypt’s leading online wholesale food and grocery marketplace.
- Stable – London’s Stable aims to take some of the risk out of price volatility for farmers and other commodity-based businesses by connecting them to suitable insurance. It scored $6 million in its March seed round, which saw participation from Syngenta, among other investors.