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The iconic Stan Smith made with Bolt Threads mycelium-based Mylo material. Image credit: Bolt Threads

Data snapshot: Tracking a decade of growth in Bioenergy & Biomaterials, the top-funded agrifoodtech category of 2023

February 28, 2024

Data Snapshot is a regular AgFunderNews feature analyzing agrifoodtech market investment data provided by our parent company, AgFunder.

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A LanzaTech plant turning carbon waste into renewable energy. Image credit: LanzaTech

The Bioenergy & Biomaterials category has once-again bucked overall agrifoodtech investment trends: for the second year in a row, the sector saw an increase in VC investment in 2023, with a 20% increase in funding against the backdrop of a 49% decline in agrifoodtech funding overall.

The AgFunder-defined Bioenergy & Biomaterials category includes a wide range of companies developing bio-based energy alternatives and materials in addition to non-food extraction and processing, feedstock tech and cannabis pharmaceuticals.

In AgFunder’s soon-to-be-released Global AgriFoodTech Investment Report 2023, the category was one of only two [the other was Farm Robotics] that grew in terms of VC investment in 2023. According to the latest AgFunder data, Bioenergy & Biomaterials startups garnered $3 billion in 2023, up from 2022, when companies raised $2.5 billion. However, startups raised fewer deals in 2023: 177 versus 210 in 2022.

10 years of investment in Bioenergy & Biomaterials

The category has become increasingly diversified over the last decade. While focus was originally concentrated on bioenergy, cheap fossil fuels slowed growth in this area, and many companies either pivoted or emerged with solutions for other biomaterials such as leather alternatives, plastic alternatives and many other offerings. Anaerobic digestion tech has also become more prominent during this time.

Funding to the category has for the most part increased in the last five years, following a brief period of decline from 2015 to 2016 before rising again. Deal count has mostly risen as well, though in 2023 it dipped slightly.

Bioenergy & Biomaterials investment, 2014-2023 (USD)

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Total investment $500m $842m $302m $394m $838m $822m $1.1bn $1.7bn $2.5bn $3bn
Deal count 88 93 54 85 105 135 170 197 210 177

Around 2016, companies like Modern Meadow and Bolt Threads came to prominence, the latter even designing a version of Adidas’ famous Stan Smith trainer with mycelium-based materials. Demand for leather and plastic alternatives in both the fashion industry and sectors like the restaurant industry, which heavily relies on single-use packaging, has led to a wealth of innovation in the last few years.

US-based Footprint is one company addressing the plastic packaging deluge with its plant-fiber technology. It holds three spots for top deals in Bioenergy & Biomaterials for the last decade.

Japan’s Spiber, which specializes in “brewed protein” that enables textile alternatives, has also secured sizable rounds over the last decade. Other notable companies in alternative materials include those making leather-like materials such as MycoWorks and Modern Synthesis, the latter of which has collaborated with design company GANNI on a luxury handbag. [Disclosure: AgFunder is an investor in MycoWorks and Modern Synthesis.] 

The iconic Stan Smith made with Bolt Threads mycelium-based Mylo material. Image credit: Bolt Threads

Bioenergy remains an important part of the category, too, as LanzaTech’s $500 million round in 2022 illustrates. The company “recycles” waste carbon into biofuels and went public via SPAC (special-purpose acquisition company) last year [read our recent interview here].

Top deals over the last 10 years have been largely concentrated in North America and Asia; the same holds true for the top deals of 2023 (below), with some presence from European startups.

Top Bioenergy & Biomaterials deals 2014-2023

🇺🇸 Footprint $830 million B 2023
🇺🇸 LanzaTech $500 million Late 2022
🇭🇰 EcoCeres $400 million Late 2023
🇺🇸 Footprint $277 million A 2018
🇯🇵 Spiber Inc. $242 million Debt 2020
🇨🇦 Enerkem $223 million Late 2018
🇯🇵 Spiber Inc. $221 million Late 2021
🇨🇦 Andion Global $211 million Late 2022
🇺🇸 Cambrian Innovation $200 million Late 2023
🇺🇸 Footprint $171 million Debt 2022
🇬🇧 Levenseat $166 million Late 2015
🇺🇸 Lygos $160 million C 2022
🇨🇳 Tripod Preclinical Research Laboratories $156 million Late 2021
🇨🇳 Yufunian $141 million A 2023
🇸🇬 RWDC Industries $133 million B 2020

Investment in 2023

Footprint topped the list of deals in 2023 with its mega $830 million round — which contributed significantly to Bioenergy & Biomaterials being the top agrifoodtech investment category of 2023. US-based biorefinery platform EcoCeres, which converts low-value waste such as agricultural biomass into high-value biofuels and biopolymers, had the next-largest round of the year followed by some notable seed rounds, including Germany-based synbio firm Cambrian and Danish startup Chromologics, which produces vibrant red pigments via precision fermentation.

Top 10 Bioenergy & Biomaterials deals 2023

🇺🇸 Footprint $830 million B
🇭🇰 EcoCeres $400 million Late
🇺🇸 Cambrian Innovation $200 million Late
🇨🇳 Yufunian $141 million A
🇺🇸 Charm Industrial $100 million B
🇨🇦 Coffee Cherry $100  million Late
🇺🇸 Evozyne $81 million B
🇺🇸 NEXT Renewable Fuels $75 million Late
🇮🇳 SAEL $62 million Late
🇨🇳 Bluepha $59 million B

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