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Lemnature USA lemna raceways
Image credit: Lemnature USA

Data snapshot: From insect ag and vertical farming to aquaculture… the top 20 deals in Novel Farming Systems in 2023

January 11, 2024

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

Click here for more research from AgFunder and sign up to our newsletters to receive alerts about new research reports.

Funding for Novel Farming Systems fell off a cliff in 2023, with startups attracting just $680m million in 2023 versus $2.8 billion in 2022 as “jaundiced” investors saved their capital for models with proven unit economics and financial returns.

However, not all such bets paid off. Several companies that secured funding in 2023 headed into bankruptcy proceedings in the same year (Lemnature AquaFarms, AeroFarms); while others (Ÿnsect) laid off staff and restructured in a bid to accelerate profitability.

Novel Farming Systems is the AgFunder-defined investment category that spans indoor crop farming systems such as vertical farms and greenhouses, insect ag, aquaculture, and algae production. Over the years, VC funding to the sector has risen steadily, that is, until 2023:

  • 2019: $1.1bn  
  • 2020: $1.6bn  
  • 2021: $2.2bn  
  • 2022: $2.8bn  
  • 2023: $680m  

The drop in 2023 was partly due to broader macroeconomic trends, but also thanks to massive market corrections in indoor farming. (Read a deep dive into indoor crop ag’s rise and fall here.)

AgFunder’s Global AgriFoodTech Investment report due in March will paint a fuller picture of this industry. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at the top 20 rounds in Novel Farming Systems in 2023, based on preliminary data from AgFunder.

1 – Ÿnsect (insect farming, mealworms – France) raised $175 million in a series D round from undisclosed investors, unveiling plans to reduce its workforce by 20% and devote more resources to the higher-value pet food ingredients category.

2 – AeroFarms (vertical farming, leafy greens – US) secured $71 million in September 2023 as it emerged from bankruptcy. The company says it has “eliminated spending on all projects that do not contribute to the ramp-up of the Danville Farm [in Virginia]” including turning its Newark, New Jersey facility into an R&D operation.

3 – Protix (insect farming – The Netherlands) raised $61m from Tyson Foods, which is partnering with Protix to build a new facility in the US using black soldier fly larvae to upcycle manufacturing byproducts into protein.

The AeroFarms facility in Danville, Virginia. Image credit: AeroFarms

4 – Good Leaf Farms (vertical farming, leafy greens – Canada) secured $58 million (CAD78m) syndicated debt financing from CIBC and Farm Credit Canada (FCC).

5 – Planet Farms (vertical farming, leafy greens – Italy) raised $40 million in a series A round to help fund the construction of new facilities in Cirimido, Italy (set to be operational in mid-2024), and north London in the UK (set to be operational in mid-2025).

6 – Victory Farms (aquaculture – Kenya) raised $35 million in a series B round led by Creadev to finance the expansion of its operations in Kenya and Rwanda and potential entry into Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Asparagopsis Seaweed
Asparagopsis seaweed grown by CH4 Global for livestock methane reduction . Image credit: CH4 Global

7 – CH4 Global (seaweed, livestock methane reduction – US) raised $29 million in the first close of a $45 million series B round led by DCVC, DCVC Bio, and Cleveland Avenue. The capital will be used to build and validate a production facility in southern Australia producing Asparagopsis seaweed (pictured above) that can supplement the diets of 30,000 cows, generating annualized revenues of up to $20 million. (Disclosure: CH4 Global is an AgFunder portfolio company.)

8 – Stacked Farm (vertical farming, leafy greens – Australia) raised $27 million in a series A round led by Tayside Investments Australia. The fresh capital was used to begin construction on a new 7,200sq m facility in Melbourne.

9 – Planet Farms (vertical farming, leafy greens – Italy) raised $19m in debt financing from UniCredit and SACE’s Green Guarantee to expand its operations in Italy.

10 – Intelligent Growth Solutions (vertical farming tech – UK) raised $15 million in a series B round. (Disclosure: IGS is an AgFunder portfolio company.)

11- Futura Gaïa (soil-based vertical farming – France) raised $12 million in a series A round to expand its soil-based rotating geoponics system for indoor plant production.

12 – Ljusgarda (vertical farming, leafy greens – Sweden) raised $10.6 million in a series A round to expand its vertical farming operation.

L-R: Brevel founders Yonatan Golan CEO, Ido Golan CTO, Matan Golan, COO
Brevel’s process yields a neutral-tasting complete protein (50%+ of the biomass), and co-products including carotenoids, fibers, and polar lipids that can serve as emulsifiers. L-R: Brevel founders Yonatan Golan CEO, Ido Golan CTO, Matan Golan, COO. Image credit: Brevel

13 – Brevel (algae farming – Israel) raised $10 million in a seed round led by led by NevaTeam Partners to expand its algae-based ingredient production platform, which utilizes a high-yielding process combining LED lighting and sugar-based (dark) fermentation.

14 – FarmInsect (insect farming – Germany) raised $9 million in a series A round led by Sandwater to expand its black soldier fly larvae operation.

15 – Babylon Micro Farms (vertical farming, leafy greens – US) raised $8 million in a series A round led by Venture South to expand its software platform that remotely manages networks of modular vertical farming systems.

16 – Lemnature AquaFarms (duckweed farming – US) raised $8m in April to keep its lemna protein business afloat but was forced to file a voluntary petition for bankruptcy in September (read more here).

17 – Beleaf (indoor farming, leafy greens – Indonesia) raised $7 million in a series A round led by Alpha JWC Ventures. The startup sells the output from its FaaS (farming as a service) program – which includes leafy greens and root vegetables – across several countries.

18 – Goterra (insect farming – Australia) raised $6.6m in a round in August and an undisclosed amount in December to expand its food waste treatment business using black soldier fly larvae.

19 – Greenswell Growers (indoor farming – US) raised $6 million in a series A round to expand its leafy greens operation.

20 – Ocean Rainforest (seaweed farming – Faroe Islands) raised $6 million in a series A round led by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment. One of the largest commercial seaweed cultivators in Europe, Ocean Rainforest obtained a cultivation permit to grow seaweed in US federal waters located offshore of Santa Barbara, CA, in 2022.

Lemnature USA lemna raceways
Florida-based foodtech firm Lemnature AquaFarms—which produced proteins and fibers from fast-growing aquatic plant lemna (a.k.a. duckweed)—filed for bankruptcy in September. Image credit: Lemnature AquaFarms

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